Most Common Types of Acne, and How to Treat Each

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Cystic Acne

Quick fix: Should you feel a cystic lesion coming on and want to nip it quickly (hello, big meeting tomorrow!), see your derm and ask for a mild steroid shot to shrink it almost immediately.


The treatment regime: Salicylic acid is a must because it can penetrate the pores and unclog them. Naturopathica Colloidal Silver & Salicylic Acid Acne Clearing Cleanser ($38; pairs antimicrobial silver and sal acid to help keep breakouts at bay. BOOK A FACIAL: If you notice that you’re suffering from clogged pores on a regular basis, it’s smart to enlist the help of an expert. Christine Chin, a licensed esthetician in New York City and founder of the eponymous spa, recommends seeing a professional for extractions to keep your complexion clear.

Quick fix: When a whitehead pops up, reach for an acne patch. These stickers are made of hydrocolloid, which turns into a fluid-absorbing gel that draws out dirt and oil, decreases inflammation, and creates a barrier to keep bacteria out. Alba Botanica Acnedote Pimple Patches ($8; will conceal the blemish as it heals.

Body Blemishes

The treatment regime: Use a benzoyl peroxide cleanser, such as CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser ($15; at mass retailers), after a workout to get rid of blemish-causing bacteria.

Power tool: Dr. Nazarian likes the ProActiv Deep Cleansing Body Brush ($30; to get hard-to-reach spots. QUICK FIX: Noshower?Useawipe before changing clothes. Try Yuni Rose Cucumber Shower Sheets ($15;

Unexpected culprits

Hair removal. Your technique may be causing breakouts! For instance, dermaplaning (an exfoliating treatment done with a razor) is great for nixing the peach fuzz that grows on your face, but if you have oily skin or active breakouts, the procedure can actually lead to an overproduction of oil and further irritation, which can then lead to more breakouts. The best option: laser hair removal.

Your Pillowcase. It could be harboring bacteria— change it once a week.

Hair products. Certain ingredients are great for strands but can wreak havoc on skin around the hairline and on the shoulders and back. Try the Seen ($24– $29; line of products, which were developed by a dermatologist specifically for those who suffer from acne.

Your phone. When was the last time you cleaned your screen? According to a study conducted at the University of Arizona, a mobile phone can carry 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. So each time you hold your phone up to your ear, you’re essentially exposing your skin to the germs that your device is carrying, which may cause a future breakout.

Acne-proof your lifestyle

Adjust your diet. High-glycemic foods can mess with your hormones, points out Dr. Nazarian. Try cutting these out and see if your skin improves. If not, let your derm know.

Stress less. A boost in cortisol (a stress hormone) can send oil glands into overdrive, so maybe it’s time to try a meditation app.

Hit the hay. Skin conditions like eczema worsen with poor sleep; acne can too. Make sure to get the seven to nine hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.

Less is more. If you’re tempted to try everything in your medicine cabinet at once, don’t. A pared-down routine is actually the most effective way to tackle skin that’s inflamed.

Go oil-free. Stick to products that say “noncomedogenic” on their labels. That means they won’t clog your pores.

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