Best Acne Treatment for Every Type of Acne

Acne is one of the most confusing (and not to mention distressing) skin conditions out there, as is figuring out the best acne treatment to address it. Take it from someone who’s been there, what works for one person can turn a minor breakout into a full-blown situation for another.

But not all hope is lost. While it can feel like you’re the only one dealing with acne, 90% of Americans experience it at some point in their lives (around 20% of them being women 26 and older). And while not all skin reacts the same, there are some key similarities in both why you’re experiencing breakouts, as well as the products you should look for to calm them. Before you even try to find the best acne treatment, it’s important to know exactly what type of acne you’re dealing with, so you can target your treatment accordingly.

What Causes Acne?

According to New York City dermatologist Shari Marchbein, M.D., all acne can be traced back to four main causes: Clogged pores thanks to “sticky” cells, bacteria, oil production, and hormones. All of these factors combine to cause each different type of acne, but some cause certain types more than others.

When trying to treat acne, Marchbein notes that it’s just as important to keep the intensity of your acne in mind, not just the type. For anything above mild acne (meaning, occasional breakouts that aren’t inflamed), you should make an appointment with a dermatologist sooner rather than later. “I never think it can be too early to go see a dermatologist,” she says. “If you’re getting hyperpigmentation—darkening of the skin from the inflammation left from the acne—you want to seek care immediately.” Another way to know it’s time to make a trip to the derm? You’ve tried over-the-counter products, and they don’t seem to be making a change. “Most acne treatments will clear your skin in three months, so if by two months you’re not seeing good results, you need to see your dermatologist,” says Marchbein.

Ahead, we break down the most common types of acne you might be dealing with, as well as how to treat it at home, and when to see the derm.


Bella Geraci 

The most mild form of acne are comedones, which are caused mainly by those “sticky” cells Marchbein was referring to. Comedones can be open, like blackheads, or closed, like whiteheads. “Comedone refers to plugging of the follicular opening,” says NYC dermatologist Elizabeth Hale, M.D., referring to hair follicles that technically cover your entire face and body. So a blackhead is the mixture of dead cells, bacteria, and grime that builds up and hardens in the follicular opening—but it’s open to the world, which is why you may be tempted to squeeze them.

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