Healthy teenage skin

There are many different types of acne, ranging from the mild inflammatory kind characterized by a few whiteheads and blackheads to the more severe cystic acne. See your doctor as early as possible to find the right treatment to control your breakouts and minimize scarring. Your doctor may wish to send you to a dermatologist.


Mild acne: Characterized by a few surface whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules. Over-the-counter or prescription topical (skin-applied) medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are usually recommended. Don't overdo it with these medications, because skin irritation, redness, and peeling may occur. If these problems don't go away, talk to your doctor about using a lower strength or trying a different product. These products need to be used regularly, and it may take at least 6 weeks to notice a difference. If you don't see any improvement, seek advice from your dermatologist.

Moderate-to-severe acne: Characterized by numerous whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and pustules. Prescription medications such as topical antibiotics (e.g., erythromycin, clindamycin, tetracycline), topical retinoids (e.g., tretinoin), oral antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and over-the-counter topical acne medications are used alone or in combination.

Severe nodular or cystic acne: Characterized by deep cysts, inflammation, and extensive damage to the skin and scarring. Isotretinoin (Accutane®, Clarus®, generics), a vitamin A analog that is taken regularly for 12 to 16 weeks, is usually recommended. The acne will go away in about 90% of people, but make sure to discuss with your dermatologist the serious side effects associated with this medication. It is important for women of childbearing age not to be pregnant or get pregnant while taking this medicine. Oral contraceptives and oral antibiotics may be recommended as well.

Cosmetic procedures

Chemical peels: Chemical peels improve overall skin tone and luster and decrease the number of whiteheads and blackheads but do little for scars. Peels can be painful and may take a few days to heal.

Laser resurfacing: Laser resurfacing improves the appearance of fine lines, uneven skin tone, and scars. A laser is used to remove areas of damaged skin. Although complications are rare, burning, scarring, and permanent depigmentation can occur. The skin may appear slightly red for days to weeks after the procedure.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team