Welcome to the Coastal Laser and Aesthetics blog! Here, you’ll find articles about laser treatments, skin rejuvenation, body contouring technologies, wellness and beauty tips, and more. We are committed to providing high quality results using non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Our goal is to help you achieve refreshed, healthy skin and optimal health. Most of our procedures are quick, with minimal downtime and side-effects. We understand the confidence boost glowing skin can impart and hope to give you the benefit of both!
Seventeen million Americans struggle with acne. That’s a lot of people! If you’re currently dealing with acne, you’re not alone. We’re here to help! Today, we’ll discuss the most common forms of acne and their typical treatments. Then, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how IPL treatments can help heal acne. If you’re interested in learning more, read on!
Types of Acne
There’s more than one kind of acne. In fact, there are several different types, and each type has a different treatment regimen. On the surface, acne is merely the result of clogged pores. However, the reason for clogged pores can vary from excess oil, dead skin, bacteria, ingrown hairs or even fungi. Some acne can be caused by hormonal fluctuations or diet. You cannot treat each type of acne the same way and doing so could result in further acne and scarring.
Keep in mind, you can experience multiple forms of acne at once. In cases such as these, you’re best off seeing a dermatologist who can identify the different forms of acne for you.
Acne vulgaris is the type of acne most of us are familiar with. Pesky zits and pimples fall under this category. Acne vulgaris can be mild or severe. The two major categories of acne vulgaris are inflammatory and noninflammatory. Noninflammatory acne vulgaris does not cause swelling, is not painful to the touch, and responds quite well to over-the-counter medication. Whiteheads and blackheads are included in the noninflammatory category. This is why people find it easy to pop whiteheads (which we don’t recommend!).
Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, are pores which have filled with sebum (oil) and dead skin. The pore closes over top of the trapped dirt and a small bump appears. While blackheads, also known as open comedones, are pores which have remained open. Exposure to air turns the trapped dirt black, which gives blackheads their signature appearance.
Inflammatory acne vulgaris is a different beast altogether. The reason for this is because inflammatory acne is often caused by bacteria, which has infected a deep layer of the skin. Inflammatory acne can be painful, red, and swollen. People afflicted with inflammatory acne have trouble touching their faces and find most over-the-counter treatments to be ineffective.
Papules are a form of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Excessive inflammation within the pore breaks down the pore walls. Pustules form in a similar manner to papules, except they are characterized by a pus-filled, white or yellow top. Both papules and pustules are red and cause tenderness to the surrounding skin.
Another form of inflammatory acne vulgaris are nodules. Nodules, as all acne does, begin as clogged pores. After significant irritation and inflammation, the nodule forms deep within the skin. Nodules cannot be treated at home.
Deeper still, are cysts. Cysts occur even further down within the skin’s surface than nodules and are the result of a severe bacterial infection. They can be incredibly painful, red or white, quite large, and leave behind deep scarring. A doctor might even surgically remove a cyst, in extreme cases.
The typical treatments for acne vulgaris vary according to type and severity. Noninflammatory acne is the most common form and, thus, the most easily treated. Salicylic acid, also known as beta hydroxy acid, is the preferred over-the-counter treatment. Salicylic acid works by exfoliating the top layer of dead skin cells and decreasing the likelihood of clogged pores. You can find salicylic acid in toners, cleansers, and moisturizers at varying levels of strength. Between 0.5% and 5% is the recommended strength, as more will cause further irritation without an increase in effectiveness. Salicylic acid can cause dryness, itching, and peeling. It is best for mild acne.
While perfect for blackheads, salicylic acid may struggle to pierce the skin over closed comedones. Therefore, a topical retinoid is recommended for whiteheads. There are over-the-counter and prescription retinoid products available for acne treatment.
Inflammatory acne vulgaris, such as papules and pustules, will respond best to solutions which target their bacterial origins. Therefore, benzoyl peroxide is recommended. At almost any strength, benzoyl peroxide will kill the bacteria which causes papules and pustules. Benzoyl peroxide has the same side effects as salicylic acid and stronger forms should be used underneath the supervision of a dermatologist. A dermatologist may also prescribe an oral or topical antibiotic.
Nodules and cysts rarely respond to topical creams or ointments, therefore a dermatologist will most likely recommend an oral medication, such as Sotret or Accutane. Sotret is isotretinoin, a form of vitamin A which, when taken daily, reduces the size of oil glands. The aim with oral medication is often to reduce oil production and dry out the skin to prevent new acne from forming.
Folliculitis malassezia, often called “fungal acne,” is actually not a form of acne at all. Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicle which mimics the appearance of acne, or a rash. Malassezia is a type of yeast commonly found in hair follicles. However, “fungal acne” occurs when there is an overgrowth of yeast. This infection can resemble acne vulgaris extremely closely, or you could have both acne vulgaris and folliculitis malassezia at the same time. A dermatologist might be able to tell the difference between the two, or perform a lab which clarifies which type you’re dealing with.
“Fungal acne” is often found on the body and rarely found on the face. It is exacerbated by sweat and oil. As well, it can be acute or chronic. Folliculitis bumps can be pus-filled and itchy.
Folliculitis can be treated with an oral antifungal, a topical antifungal ointment, or both. As well, NSAIDs or antihistamines might help to alleviate any itching. “Fungal acne” can be quite persistent and reoccur. If this is the case, a dermatologist might recommend laser hair removal treatment, as these treatments can remove the infected hair follicle.
Hormonal fluctuations can trigger increased sebum production which, in turn, results in more clogged pores. These hormonal fluctuations might’ve been triggered by puberty, menstruation, menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome, or the start of a new hormone-based medication. Hormonal acne tends to appear on the chin, jaw, and the underside of cheekbones.
A dermatologist may prescribe an anti-androgen medication (such as spironolactone), if they believe the hormonal imbalance to be caused by a spike in androgen levels. However, if your hormonal acne is caused by progesterone-based birth control, they may urge you to switch over to a birth control which contains estrogen (which can be good for the skin). Retinoids are another option for treating hormonal acne.
How Acne Responds to IPL Treatment
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)—a broad spectrum light source—releases a set of different wavelengths of light which penetrate into the deep layers of the skin. Inflammatory acne, such as nodules and cysts, occur at a deeper level in the dermis. To reach this layer without causing damage to the surface of the skin can be difficult. Our skin’s pigment cells convert the light from IPL into energy, or heat, which can kill bacteria, shrink hair follicles, and help heal past scarring. IPL is a safer alternative than oral antibiotics, which can affect your long-term gut health and lead to recurrent yeast infections. IPL comes with three filters, or standard wavelengths. The blue light filter can kill certain types of acne-causing bacteria. The yellow filter can assuage swollen, active acne. While the red filter can slow down oil producing glands in the skin.
Four to six sessions, spaced apart over a few weeks, is the recommended treatment plan for IPL. Within three sessions, you’ll see noticeable changes to the appearance of your acne. Within one session, you may notice a decrease in oiliness. Sessions can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to one hour.
If you’re struggling with any of the forms of acne mentioned here, you can benefit from an IPL treatment. Our treatments are based around firm medical knowledge and genuine care. We understand how hard dealing with acne can be and want to help. Reach out to us today. We look forward to hearing from you!