Ways To Treat Infected Acne
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Acne is a common skin problem that affects people of all ages. While its frustrating to deal with any type of acne breakout, dealing with infected, painful acne can be a particularly stressful and unpleasant process.
Infected acne develops when bacteria multiply inside a clogged pore, causing it to become red, swollen and painful.
When acne becomes infected, it can take a significant toll on your skin and increase your risk of dealing with issues such as permanent scarring.
Luckily, even the most severe infected acne breakouts can be treated with the right mix of good skincare habits, over-the-counter products and acne medications.
Below, weve explained how and why infected acne develops, as well as nine ways that you can get control of infected acne and stop breakouts from coming back.
Find The Right Treatment
Let your dermatologist know about treatments youve tried so far. Your treatment options may include topical ointments, gels, lotions or creams, and/or oral medications. Some may be used to reduce oil, while others are designed to control bacteria. Examples include:
- oral antibiotics such as tetracycline or a macrolide
- prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide
- topical retinoids
- salicylic acid or azelaic acid
Be sure to use these medications as instructed and tell your doctor about any new or worsening symptoms.
If youve tried the above treatments and they havent worked for you, other options for your nodular acne include:
- combined oral contraceptives
- anti-androgen agents
- extraction of blackheads and whiteheads
- steroid injections into the nodule
- laser therapy
Can Ice Provide Relief For Cystic Acne
If you have a more painful area of the skin, icing is never a bad idea. I encourage patients to ice their skin for a variety of reasons from itch to pain, to even a painful lesion of acne. Should you decide to ice your skin, dont put ice directly on it because you can end up burning the skin. Wrap your ice pack in a washcloth or even a thicker paper towel first. Gentle icing for 10 minutes or so isnt a bad idea. If its causing more pain or the area is starting to go numb, stop immediately.
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Treating Your Acne Medicinally
Try A Prescription Medication
If you have hormonal reoccurring acne, or if the only breakouts you tend to get on a regular basis are cystic and blind, your doctor will likely suggest an oral medication . There are four categories of internal acne treatments: antibiotics, birth control pills, Accutane, and spironolactone, says Dr. Schultz. The root cause of cystic acne is excess oil stimulated by hormones, and all of these treatments in some way reduce the production of oil or the effect bacteria has on that oil.
Heres a quick breakdown of each one:
Listen up: Only mild cases of blind pimples will respond to at-home methods, so if youve been cold compressing, benzoyl-peroxide-treating, pimple-patching, and retinol-ing for six weeks to no avail, its time to see your derm. They might suggest a steroid injection to finally get rid of that blind pimple or a prescription treatment to prevent them from emerging again. But whatever you do, Im begging you and reminding you to never, ever pick at itthe scars are not worth it, bb.
Home Remedies For Acne
Similar to the above natural acne remedies, these acne treatments can be inexpensive and worth giving a try. Best of all, these use products you probably already have in your household, like apple cider vinegar and toothpaste. Use home remedies for pimples with caution if you have cystic acne, open sores or inflammatory acne, which are best treated with medical supervision.
How To Get Rid Of Acne Scars
Scarring from severe cystic acne can have harmful effects on a person’s self esteem, happiness and mental health. Thankfully, there are many different acne scar treatment options available, ranging from chemical peels and skin fillers to dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these are all safe and effective acne scar treatment methods. However, Baldwin says it’s important to first clarify what you mean by “scar.” “Many people point to red or brown spots leftover from old zits and call them scars,” she says. “These are marks, not scars and they’ll fade with time. Scars have textural changes and are not flush with the surface of the skin. There are two types of acne scarsinnies and outies. Outies can be injected with corticosteroids and flattened. Innies can be either deep and narrow or broad, sloping and relatively shallow. Deep and narrow scars need to be cut out, but broader sloping scars can be made better by fillers, laser resurfacing and dermabrasion.”
Learn more about acne scar removal below to see which method might work best for you.
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Shield Yourself From The Sun
When you have severe acne, too much sun can be painful. Also, some medications used to treat acne can make you more sensitive to the sun.
Ask your doctor if your medications will make you more sun-sensitive. Try to stay out of direct sunlight whenever possible. If you must be outdoors, cover your skin and always wear sunscreen recommended by your doctor.
How To Get Rid Of Back Acne Step Three: Body Wash With Acne Medication
Acne remedies benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are key ingredients in body washes designed to get rid of acne. Choose an oil-free body wash with acne medication like benzoyl peroxide or 2 percent salicylic acid. Apply the body wash to the affected areas and leave on for a minute or two to allow the acne medication to work its magic. Rinse well. Remember that products that contain benzoyl peroxide bleach fabric and may ruin towels, clothes and sheets/pillow cases. Change to white or something you don’t mind bleaching.
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What Happens If You Pop A Blind Pimple
If you do try to pop or squeeze a blind pimple, youll just push all of the inflammation even further into your skin, creating an explosion of inflammation, says Dr. Lal. Not only that, but trying to pop a blind pimple also introduces new bacteria from either your fingers or whatever tool youre using, which can increase inflammation and lengthen the time it takes for your pimple to go away, all of which ups your risk of scarring.
Even worse, Dr. Lal explains that because blind pimples are so deep under the skin, theres collagen and scar tissue around it trying to help heal it from the inside. When you try to break open the pimple by popping it, you can end up pushing the inflammation below that scar tissue, making the pimple feel smoother, but still just as painful and likely to come back. So, yeah, just pls, dont try to pop it.
How do you get rid of a blind pimple fast?
If you want to get rid of a blind pimple fast, youre going to have to face some disappointing news: A blind pimple wont go away overnight, or even over a few nights. Even the most effective treatments take up to five days to start working, which is why prevention is key when it comes to cystic and inflammatory acne .
Still, the next time you do have a blind pimple appear on your face, take note of the following treatment options, from professional methods to at-home products:
Apply A Lactic Acid Lotion
If you apply it each day, it can help smooth rough, bumpy skin on all parts of the body. You can use it along with:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Tea tree oil
- Salicylic acid
Apply the lotion after the salicylic acid medication has completely dried. A more effective method is to use a salicylic acid or tea tree oil product in the morning and lactic acid at night.
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Oral Contraceptives With Estrogen
The birth control pill is another option for women suffering hormonal acne. Four types of birth control pills have been approved by the FDA for use as acne treatment, and all four are combination pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone. Talk to your doctor about how to get rid of acne using birth control and keep in mind that Ortho Tri-cyclen, Estrostep YAZ and Beyaz are the only four brands specifically FDA approved as acne remedies.
How A Dermatologist Might Treat Cystic Acne
Since were all different, there isnt a one size fits all solution for cystic acne. When you talk to a dermatologist, you can work together to develop a treatment plan that works for you.
Dr. Braue says that isotretinoin is still widely used to manage cystic acne and recent studies suggest that there isnt a direct link between it and an increase in depression. If you opt to go this route, he usually recommends just cleansing the skin with something very mild and not an acne wash.
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What Does Infected Acne Look Like
Infected acne looks different from the small blackheads and whiteheads that you may normally develop. Infected acne lesions are often:
Red in color, with visible inflammation
Larger and more swollen than other acne lesions
Uncomfortable or painful when touched
Filled with pus or other purulent material
Slower to heal than other acne lesions
Some forms of infected acne, such as nodular acne, form deep beneath the surface of your skin and can grow much larger than most pimples.
Several other skin infections and conditions can produce symptoms that look similar to infected acne. These include:
Folliculitis. This is a common skin condition that affects
the hair follicles, typically due to bacterial infection. Its usually caused by the Staph bacteria, known clinically as Staphylococcus aureus.
Furuncles. Usually known as boils, these large, pimple-like lesions develop
when a hair follicle and the surrounding tissue becomes infected with bacteria. Like folliculitis, theyre often caused by a Staph bacteria infection.
Papulopustular rosacea. This is a common skin disease that can cause redness of the skin, swelling and acne-like breakouts that affect the face and body.
Since these skin conditions arent acne, common treatments for acne may not improve them or clear your skin.
If youre unsure about a skin rash, bump or condition that looks similar to acne, its always best to contact your healthcare provider or a dermatologist.
Eye Drops That Relieve Redness
While the evidence is strictly anecdotal, many people state that spot treatment with a few drops of Visine or similar redness-relieving eye drops can temporarily remove the redness from pimples. This is due to brimonidine, the active ingredient in Visine that reduces redness in the eyes. Brimonidine constricts the blood vessels which in turn reduces redness.
To use eye drops for this purpose, apply several drops of Visine on a cotton swab and lightly dab the blemish for 30 seconds. it should appear less red and visible within hours.
It should be noted that this is not a treatment that should be repeated regularly, as it can have the opposite effect and increase inflammation.
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How To Prevent Blind Pimples
While a consistent skincare routine can help prevent blind pimples to an extent, youll find that the most effective prevention against cystic acne will be topical and oral medications that either speed up cell turnover and/or regulate hormones and oil production . But lets get into all of your options, starting with:
Benzoyl Peroxide Cleansers That Will Keep Your Pores Clear
Once youre using a cleanser and moisturizer consistently, you can add a chemical exfoliant toner, pad, or serum to help slough off dead skin, minimize oil, and make your skin ultra smooth. Both AHAs and BHAs can help dissolve dead skin, soften the bumpy texture, and fade the hyperpigmentation left over from blind pimples.
AHAs are best for those with dry skin, while BHAs are oil-soluble, so theyre great for oily control and blackheads. Neither will necessarily get rid of or prevent blind pimples, but the fewer dead skin cells and excess oil on your skin, the less its likely to clog your pores and lead to inflammation.
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How Is Cystic Acne Diagnosed
Cystic acne is diagnosed through a physical examination. While the condition can be diagnosed and treated by a general practitioner, cystic acne usually requires the services of a dermatologist.
Cystic acne symptoms are large, red, boil-like swellings called cysts or nodules that can be found on the face, jawline, neck, back, or chest. Some of them may be painful or tender to the touch.
A patients medical history will reveal possible causes or risk factors such as age, pregnancy, family history of acne, medication use, use of anabolic steroids, or stress.
Blood tests will not be required unless the doctor suspects high levels of androgens are a factor. In women, high androgen levels are often indicated by unwanted hair growth or menstrual problems.
How To Get Rid Of Back Acne
Back acne is a potentially embarrassing and sometimes painful condition where clogged hair follicles on the back cause pimples and blackheads. Back acne can be caused by the same factors as other types of acne: diet, hormones, certain medications, genetics or any combination thereof. But when you’re considering how to get rid of back acne, also remember that most people have their back covered the majority of the day. The clothing we wear matters, and the way in which we wash the skin on our back is key for clear skin, the whole body over. Learn more about common back acne causes, the best acne products for your body, and how to prevent acne on the back from returning in this section.
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Moisturize Your Acne Prone Skin
Some think that avoiding putting anything at all on the face will help get rid of acne fast, but this is a misconception. Failing to moisturize your skin can lead to over-drying, which can cause excess oil production. Keeping your skin hydrated with an oil-free moisturizer designed for acne-prone skin is an important step toward clear skin.
Use Ice To Treat Pain And Swelling
If your pimples feel painful or uncomfortable, instead of popping them, try using ice to gain more control over pain and swelling.
To make a swollen or painful acne lesion more tolerable, place an ice cube inside a paper towel, wrap it up and gently apply it to the acne lesion.
Hold it there for five to 10 minutes, then take a 10-minute break, then repeat the process two more times.
After applying ice a few times, you should notice the acne lesion gradually become less swollen and painful.
To speed up recovery, try applying an acne spot treatment to the affected skin after youve controlled the inflammation with ice.
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How To Get Rid Of The Redness From Acne Scars
Acne scars can result from picking or popping blemishes or as a result of severe acne.
While home remedies and topical medications are effective in treating acne, this is not so for acne scars. For optimal results, it is best to consult with a professional about your options.
When To Seek Medical Advice
If you have mild acne, speak to a pharmacist about medicines to treat it.
If these do not control your acne, or it’s making you feel very unhappy, see a GP.
You should see a GP if you have moderate or severe acne or you develop nodules or cysts, as they need to be treated properly to avoid scarring.
Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots, as this can lead to permanent scarring.
Treatments can take up to 3 months to work, so do not expect results overnight. Once they do start to work, the results are usually good.
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