Between 40 and 50 million Americans suffer from acne. If you’re one of them, you’re not alone. Acne can be a frustrating and seemingly endless skin problem. However, by understanding what acne vulgaris is, what symptoms to watch out for, and how to treat it, you don’t have to continue dealing with unwanted breakouts.
What Is Acne Vulgaris?
Acne vulgaris is the formal way of referring to what you likely consider the “standard” or “common” form of acne. You may also hear acne referred to as papulopustular acne, pimples, zits, breakouts, or blemishes. Pimples are caused by oil, bacteria, and other impurities that clog the pores on your skin. One of the major reasons this can happen is because of hormones and hormonal fluctuations, which is why acne vulgaris is especially common during puberty. It’s estimated that 85% of teenagers deal with acne vulgaris; although, the skin condition can affect any age group.
Acne Vulgaris Symptoms: What to Look For
When identifying acne vulgaris, you’ll want to look for:
- Small, red bumps
- Pus-filled pimples
- Large, red, and painful lumps
Standard acne can come in many forms, resulting in any of these types of blemishes. Most often these breakouts will appear on the face, but they can also spread to the neck, chest, shoulders, and back.
Acne Vulgaris Treatment
To help get rid of your acne breakouts, there are several different treatment options. Eliminate acne vulgaris blemishes by:
1. Rethinking Your Skin Care
When looking at skin care products for oily and acne-prone skin, many include overly drying ingredients that strip the skin of its oil. At first, this may sound like exactly what you’re looking for — because if you’re getting rid of the oil, your pores won’t clog. Right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works. When you strip the skin of its natural oils, your skin may overcompensate by producing more oil. This process then makes your skin even oilier than it was originally. That’s why it may be time to rethink your skin care. Instead of reaching for harsh, drying products, reach for gentle, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic products that won’t disrupt or irritate your skin.
Comedogenic products simply refer to skin care and cosmetic products that are likely to clog pores. By eliminating these topical items for your routine, you help lower your risk of experiencing clogged hair follicles.
Some topical products will state that they’re non-comedogenic on the packaging, but many won’t. To know whether your skin care products are comedogenic, try checking the brand’s FAQ page or reach out to customer service. A representative will likely be able to tell you whether a product is comedogenic or not.
2. Balancing the Skin Microbiome
The outer layer of your skin houses trillions of bacteria, both good and bad, that make up your skin microbiome. When in an ideal balance, these microorganisms help to protect your skin from environmental threats. However, your skin microbiome can only do this when the good and bad bacteria are in balance. When bad bacteria overpopulate and overwhelm your good bacteria, the imbalance weakens your skin’s ability to protect itself and can contribute to skin conditions like acne.
Thankfully, you can support your microbiome's natural balance as easily as you would apply lotion. Gladskin's microbiome-friendly products are hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, fragrance free, and formulated to work with your skin's microbiome instead of stripping it away.
3. Use Acne Vulgaris Medication
If you’re dealing with severe or persistent acne vulgaris, a board-certified dermatologist may prescribe medication to treat your breakouts. Possible recommendations include:
- Topical retinoids: Topical retinoids are derived from vitamin A and are available as creams, gels, and lotions. Retinoids help unclog pores and exfoliate dead skin cells, preventing future clogged pores. Temporary side effects of retinoid products can include red, peeling skin and increased skin sensitivity to the sun.
- Oral antibiotics: Oral antibiotics help eliminate acne-causing bacteria as well as lower inflammation. These pills are effective against fighting acne, but it’s important to remember that antibiotics kill off good and bad bacteria. That means while they’re getting rid of bad, acne-causing bacteria, they’re also killing the good bacteria in your body.
- Isotretinoin: Isotretinoin is an oral retinoid derived from vitamin A, commonly referred to as Accutane. Isotretinoin is considered a highly effective form of acne treatment. Most people who choose this treatment option will be acne-free after four to six months. However, the list of possible side effects are long and serious, so isotretinoin is often only recommended for more severe cases of acne. Side effects range from chapped lips to joint pain and even vision troubles. Because of the consequences Accutane can have on fetal development, doctors require a negative pregnancy test before starting treatment as well as the use of two forms of birth control during treatment.
How Acne Vulgaris Differs from Other Forms of Acne
Understanding which form of acne you’re experiencing will help you ensure you’re receiving proper treatment. Because many of the forms of acne can appear similar to one another, it can be important to educate yourself on how acne vulgaris compares to each type:
- Acne vulgaris vs. cystic acne: Compared to acne vulgaris, cystic acne appears as large, red, and painful cysts on the skin. These blemishes start deep below the surface of the skin and are considered the most severe form of acne.
- Acne vulgaris vs. fungal acne: One of the most distinct characteristics of fungal acne compared to acne vulgaris is its itchiness. Standard acne is rarely ever itchy. Fungal acne blemishes often all appear the same size and in clusters, which is less true of acne vulgaris as well.
- Acne vulgaris vs. papulopustular acne: “Papulopustular acne” and “acne vulgaris” are two different terms used to describe the same skin condition. Both forms of acne can result in papules (small red bumps) and pustules (pus-filled pimples).
Acne Vulgaris vs. Acne Rosacea
Sometimes rosacea will be referred to as “acne rosacea.” This can become confusing for many people, because it sounds like another form of acne… but it’s not! Acne rosacea and acne vulgaris are two distinct conditions. However, rosacea can cause bumps on the skin similar to acne blemishes, so it’s important to know the differences for proper diagnosis.
One major difference between acne and rosacea are the locations of symptoms. While acne most often occurs on the face but also shows up on the chest, back, and shoulders, rosacea only appears on the face. More specifically, rosacea tends to show up on the center of the face on the nose, forehead, chin, and inner cheeks.
Rosacea also tends to cause more wide-spread redness than acne and generally won’t include whiteheads or blackheads — only small papules. Compared to acne sufferers, people with rosacea tend to have quite dry skin, and their symptoms flare up quickly when they consume spicy foods and alcohol.
You’ve Got This: Managing Acne Vulgaris
Unfortunately, acne can be a very misunderstood skin condition — one that’s able to have a major effect on your mental health and quality of life. However, by better understanding acne vulgaris, what it looks like, how it differs from other skin conditions, what skincare products have the potential to make it better or worse, and all of your treatment options, you can help reduce blemishes and experience clearer skin.
Empowering yourself with the information you need to make changes and choose your best treatment path is the first step.