Acne can often make you feel isolated, affect your confidence, and prevent you from socializing. Likewise, acne treatments can be difficult to understand and frustrating while waiting for results. But acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans each year.
With that in mind, it’s time we started discussing acne more through moves like the hashtag #FreeThePimple, encouraging pimple positivity. And part of the discussion, beyond normalizing acne and unfiltered skin texture, has to be about the many different options for treating it.
If you have acne and think you need a prescription from a dermatologist to get it under control, here’s what you need to know.
Different types of acne
Dermatologists divide cases by type, dividing them into non-inflammatory acne, inflammatory acne, and nodulocystic acne, explains dermatologist Melanie Palm, MD. Vogue teens. Non-inflammatory acne is made up of blackheads and whiteheads. Inflammatory acne is characterized by pustules, pus-filled bumps, and cyst formation. Nodulocystic acne is the most severe type and frequently leaves scars.
Dr Palm says identifying your acne can help you find the right treatment, as some milder forms of non-inflammatory acne can be treated with over-the-counter topicals. âIf you have blackheads, whiteheads, and a rare and occasional red sore, there are over-the-counter options that were actually prescriptions,â she says.
She recommends trying Differin for this type of acne, the first retinoid to be approved in the United States for over-the-counter use. âRetinoids are a derivative of vitamin A and they help with all aspects of that,â she says. “So they help with blackheads, whiteheads, and cystic lesions.”
Find a dermatologist
If your acne is more severe, on the inflammatory or nodulocystic side, Dr. Palm recommends seeing a certified dermatologist for treatment. To find the right one for you, she says, visit their website and social media and ask your friends, âThe main way we find new patients is actually by referring patients, so it helps to know that family and friends have been successful. “
Nada Elbuluk, MD, director of the USC Skin of Color and Pigmentary Disorder program and dermatologist at Keck Medicine of USC, says don’t wait too long to see a dermatologist. âI think for some reason a lot of people try to fight acne on their own for too long,â she says. âI think people should just know that if acne is something they are treating, they don’t need to suffer from it for long periods of time. We have so many wonderful treatments for acne. Dr Elbuluk emphasizes this point for moderate and severe cases that present a risk of scarring.
What to expect at the dermatologist’s office
Dr Palm says there are many options and combinations for treating acne, which means your dermatologist will customize your treatment for you and your skin type. âBeyond non-inflammatory, inflammatory, and nodulocystic acne with scarring, there is also female hormonal acne,â she says. âThis is something that I see a lot in my teenage patients, and even patients in their thirties and fifties, and we’ll treat it a little differently.