The Basics about Acne

Published on Dec 30, 2021 | 10:46 AM

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Whether you get the occasional blemish or repetitive pimple, acne can embarrassing to deal with as a teen and as an adult. Our CallonDoc dermatologists want to help you not only understand what kind of acne you have, but what is causing it as well as treatment recommendations.

What Are the Types of Acne?

As shown in the Call-On-Doc Guide to Acne, acne comes in multiple forms with three basic types:

  • Comedonal Acne: whiteheads and blackheads
  • Inflammatory Acne: red bumps and pimples
  • Nodular-cystic Acne:  large cysts with a higher chance of scarring

What Causes Acne?

Two main reasons an individual may struggle with acne are due to genetics and hormones. For men it is common to see acne anywhere, whereas women tend to have acne around the chin, jawline and lower face. While acne is more common during puberty, getting acne as an adult is not uncommon and can be treated.

Acne develops from pores getting clogged with oil and dead skin cells. You may think of acne as a progression: first a whitehead or blackhead appears where dirt, oil and skin cells get trapped in the pores and can cause little bumps. When the pores get full or break open underneath the skin, the fluid and pus can cause inflammation, also known as a pimple. When there is a lot of acne in one area it can cause a cyst.

How to Treat Acne

The general rule for treating acne is to make sure to use products that are oil free and non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog your pores.

For dry skin you can use a gentle cleanser and moisturize with an oil free product. An over-the-counter dermatologist recommendation for dry skin is to use a salicylic acid wash, which is mild even for sensitive skin.

If you have oily skin, you can use harsher products like a face wash with a benzoyl peroxide base Dermatologists still recommend that those with oily skin should moisturize, in some cases your skin can produce more oil because it is dehydrated. Some over-the-counter treatments that are good for oily skin are an adapalene gel, which you can use overnight. *Note this is not good for those who have sensitive skin.

There is no treatment for acne that is “best,” as your age, the severity of acne, where the acne is on your body, your skin sensitivity and other factors play a role in treatment options. However, when trying different treatment plans for acne, it will take a minimum of four to six weeks to see a difference no matter the treatment due to your skin cells. Skin cells take four weeks from development to when it sheds off the top of your skin, therefore when trying ay new treatment it will take time to see how your skin reacts.

What NOT to Do When You Break Out

Top tips from our dermatologists for what NOT to do when you have a breakout:


  • Scrub, pick, or pop (this can make inflammation worse)
  • Over exfoliate skin
  • Mess with your acne
  • Put a bunch of different products on it


  • Wash or cleanse face 1-2 times a day
  • Use spot treatments or pimple patches

How to Treat Acne Scars

Sometimes acne scars are caused by the acne itself and result in large, deep lesions. If you pick at acne you are at a higher risk of scarring. Typically the worse the acne, the higher the risk of acne scars.

Dermatologist suggestions for minimizing or improving acne scars are:

  • Seek treatment for acne early on
  • Minimize picking, poking, squeezing
  • Use Vitamin A or Tretinoin to reduce redness and improve skin texture
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser treatments
  • Microneedling

Acne Free, Clear Skin Tips

Call-On-Doc Dermatologists recommend washing your face twice a day, do not over-exfoliate your skin or poke and prod blemishes. It is also recommended to seek help early on if over-the-counter products are not working and to be patient when trying new treatment methods. Learn more from the Call-On-Doc Focus: A Dermatologist's Guide to Crafting an Acne-Prone Skincare Regimen.

Still Having Trouble? Is it Acne?

Have you tried multiple treatments for acne and still are having issues? Sometimes other dermatology conditions can be confused with acne. If you believe you have regular acne, it might not be acne at all, but could be: rosacea, yeast overgrowth on the skin, or enlarged oil glands.

How CallonDoc Can Help

Whether you need help with acne or another skin related condition, Call-On-Doc can treat you or get you on a subscription plan for your dermatology care needs. Call-On-Doc dermatology does not require long waits or expensive appointments. A Call-On-Doc dermatologist can treat you easily online within 1-2 hours a for a flat fee. Simply select your condition, take a few pictures and answer a few health questions. A Call-On-Doc dermatologist will prescribe your treatment to your pharmacy the same day! Get started now.

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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