White heads, black heads, cystic acne - acne is definitely not a one-size-fits-all condition. Nor is it a one age condition. Some people struggle with acne year round, some on certain days of the month and some get a single pimple here or there. Some people lose their acne as they enter their 20's while some others deal with adult acne for most of their 30's and some even into their 40's.
When you look at the ingredient labels of acne products, often you'll see salicylic acid or benzyl peroxide, but do you know what each ingredient does and what one is best for your skin issues? Here's a quick cheat sheet.
How Acne is Formed
Deep down in every hair follicle lies sebaceous glands. These glands produce the body's natural moisturizing oils that keep your skin and hair hydrated. Some people have over-active sebaceous glands which makes them prone to acne, especially when the oil gets clogged or mixes with dead skin cells.
Black heads are formed by a combination of too much sebum mixed with the skin's dead skin cells. Because black heads exist in open pores, the oil is exposed to the oxygen and it is the oxygen that turns the oil dark in color (Just like an apple that is left out.) The main difference between black heads and white heads is the pore. Is it open or closed? With black heads, it's closed. With white heads, it's open.
If you suffer with black heads, look for products with salicylic acid in them. The salicylic acid will help exfoliate and peel away the layers of dead skin cells, thus helping to unclog and get rid of the black heads. Best Salicylic Acid Products
With white heads, the pore is closed, so the oil and dead skin cells get clogged inside the pore. White heads are usually small and not puffed or inflamed like cysts. If you deal with white heads, look for products with benzyl peroxide. The benzyl peroxide will help slough off dead skin cells, but it will also help kill the bacteria that is causing the acne. More info on benzyl peroxide
If you have raised, inflamed acne that is deep down, you likely have cystic acne. Cystic acne can be extremely painful and can last a very long time. It is a real medical condition that should get real medical treatment.
Doctors can prescribe antibiotics which will help kill the infection deep down in the pores. They can also inject steroids to heal acne faster or even surgically drain large, painful cystic acne. Other oral medications like Accutane or birth control pills are also an option only through a dermatologist. More on treating cystic acne
More Acne Info and Advice
- 10 Ways to Prevent Acne - What if some of your daily habits are contributing to your acne. Here we look at 10 things that many of us are guilty of and we show you who doing these can cause or prolong ance.
- Skin Care Tips for Oily and Combination Skin - If you have oily or combination skin, this article will give you advice on how to treat your skin.
- How to Make Pore Strips - If you'd like to try a little DIY acne product, try this simple recipe to make your own pore strips right at home with only 2 ingredients.
- Picking the Best Face Mask for Your Skin Type - Using a face mask is a good way to give your skin a boost, no matter your skin type. But face masks are not one-size-fits-all. It's important to use the right mask for your skin type.