Handy List of Best Acne Creams to put a Full Stop to your Zits

Dealing with pimples is a harsh reality of life. While many adolescents dread pimples, identifying how to get rid of them is another herculean task. Science does offer many remedies, however, one must have the time and patience to try and figure out what suits one the best. This is more so in case you want to get rid of pimples very quickly. Well fret not, we have one versatile tool for this problem - Acne creams!!

Now the question that promptly comes to mind is: What's so new about acne creams, they are out there everywhere, aren’t they? Well yes, there is a plethora of creams available in the market. However, one must note that all acne is not formed equal. There is a multitude of issues leading to acne right from hygiene, skin care habits, diet, hormones as well as genetics. Thus, each form of acne requires a different targeted approach. Also, before choosing the type of cream, one must be aware of whether one wants to prevent acne or cure it. Not all acne creams adequately cure all kinds of acne. As the saying goes, "Knowledge is Power," one must be knowledgeable enough to differentiate between various types of acne to ensure one picks the right cream for your needs.

So, here is the ultimate guide to figuring out the type of acne you have and choosing the best acne cream for it.

Best Acne Creams for Different Types of Acne

#1. Acne caused by Hormones

Photographer: Drew Hays | Source: Unsplash

Sometimes one may see a sudden onset of small pink zits around the face or jaw. These may be caused by hormonal fluctuations like, for instance, a rise in androgen levels in men. Androgens are male sex hormones but are found in both women and men. In the case of women, it can occur somewhere just before the start of one's period. So check if you are getting them around certain specific days of the month. According to Joshua Zeichner, certified dermatologist, Mount Sinai Hospital, NYC, this hormonal acne occurs as a result of fluctuating hormones. Hormones can increase oil production, and such excess oil settles in the pores of the skin leading to pimples.

Best Acne Cream:

Opt for a cream that contains a combination of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid that can prevent hormonal acne from occurring in the first place. Zeichner also suggests using a salicylic acid acne wash. A salicylic acid is a form of beta-hydroxy acid or, in other words, a chemical exfoliator that disbands the bonds that hold the dead skin cells together. This enables the skin to shed gently. Salicylic acid penetrates the stratum corneum (outermost layer of the skin) and gets into the pores to remove the sebum.[1]

#2. Inflammatory Acne (Papules)

These are small red tender bumps caused as a result of Cutibacterium acnes

bacteria or c.acnes (earlier known as Propionibacterium acnes or

p.acnes) bacteria build up. This bacteria causes inflamed lesions, but these lesions do not contain pus. The diameter of papules is usually less than 5 millimeters.

Best Acne Cream:

While a topical application of creams containing benzoyl peroxide is often the preferred first level OTC treatment given its antibacterial effect, dermatologists may also advise creams with retinoids. Retinoids help to enhance cell turnover and thereby keep the skin free of oil and reduce inflammation.

#3. Inflammatory Acne (Pustules)

Pustules, another form of inflammatory acne, are small red bumps that look like papules, except that these bumps contain a white center surrounded by inflamed, red skin and contain a yellowish fluid called pus. Pustules may occur over the face, chest, and back. Pustules form when a blocked pore gets infected, causing a discharge. Pustules are usually formed in clusters and are painful.

Best Acne Cream:

Usually, creams containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are preferred. Calamine lotions are also used in certain cases for spot treatments. Dapsone gel is another recommended cream that helps to decrease the number as well as the severity of pimples. Dapsone (available on prescription) comes in the form of a topical gel and belongs to a class of sulfone antibiotics. It works by stopping the advancement of bacteria.[2],[3]

#4. Inflammatory Acne (Nodules)

Painful and hard acne lesions that are quite deep and occur on the face, chest, and back characterize nodular acne. These can spread over a large area and may remain for months. Topical acne creams alone are not enough, and this nodular acne may require oral antibiotics prescribed by a dermatologist.

Nevertheless, there are certain acne creams that can be used as a primary control measure.

Best Acne Cream:[4]

[a] Antibiotic Creams: These work by slaying the bacteria and minimizing redness. A combination of antibiotics and retinoid creams can be used initially at a different time of the day. For instance, the antibiotic can be applied in the morning and the retinoid cream in the evening. Most antibiotic creams are often coupled with benzoyl peroxide so as to reduce the chance of developing antibiotic resistance.

[b] Retinoid Creams: Retinoids come in the form of gels, creams, and lotions. Many derms prefer integrating retinoids into the skincare routine for preventing cysts. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives and include tretinoin, adapalene, or tazarotene as main components. Dr. Joshua Zeichner recommends Differin, the only prescription-strength retinoid sold as OTC.[5] Differin gel has a component called Adapalene, that helps fight inflammation, prevents new acne formation, and improves blackheads and discoloration. Retinoids and similar retinoids-like drugs work by preventing the plugging of hair follicles. Retinoid creams can be applied in the evenings starting with a few days a week till the skin gets used to it, and then they can be used daily.

[c] Salicylic acid and Azelaic acid: An azelaic acid is a form of acid that occurs naturally in many whole-grain kinds of cereal and various animal products. It is supposed to have many antibacterial properties and works well when combined with erythromycin. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, helps to prevent clogged hair follicles and is available in various forms like wash-off or leave on types. Often Salicylic acid is prescribed in higher doses.

[d] Dapsone Gel: Dapsone (Aczone) gel at 5% strength is another recommended option for inflammatory acne. Dapsone is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and is good for deeper pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.

#5. Cystic Acne

These are more severe forms of acne caused by an infection that is present deep down inside the skin. Cysts are large red, painful pus-filled bumps. They are much softer than nodules because they are filled with pus.

Best Acne Cream

Cystic acne is quite difficult to treat, and dermatologists often recommend topical retinoid creams in combination with oral retinoids and antibiotics.

#6. Non Inflammatory acne; Whiteheads and Blackheads

Whiteheads (also known as closed comedones) are caused due to clogged pores. The head of the pore and the length of the pore remain closed, causing a little white bump on the skin. Blackheads, unlike whiteheads, look black on the skin. Blackheads are also known as open comedones because the head of the pore is open while the rest of the pore is clogged.

Best Acne Cream

OTC treatments include creams containing benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide is the most effective while sulfur, one of the oldest known acne treatments, is the mildest on the skin. Salicylic acid helps to control inflammation and prevents the recurrence of whiteheads.

Topical retinoids like retinol, adapalene (Differin), and tretinoin (Retin-A) are also prescribed. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology considers retinoids as the core form of therapy for acne.

While there are several acne creams (available OTC and by prescription), some may have mild to moderate side effects based on an individual's skin type. Hence, it is best to consult a dermatologist for a personalized treatment plan with the best acne cream sans side effects.

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