Unless you’re one of the very lucky few, acne is a part of life for most anyone who has lived through puberty. And while at times it might feel like any number of zits is cause for concern, acne can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe.
So what’s the big difference and how do you deal with them? Quite simple as long as you know what to look for. Here are some quick tips on identifying and treating moderate versus severe acne.
How to Tell the Difference
The easiest way to tell the difference between moderate and severe acne is a quick visual evaluation. Moderate acne usually appears in the form of red, inflamed pimples, as well as facial bumps and blackheads. They may scar or leave marks after they go away, and can be resistant to over-the-counter treatments, which makes it a good idea to seek help from a dermatologist to prevent further damage to your skin.
For severe acne, many of the same symptoms as moderate acne are present in greater frequency and intensity. Severe acne usually covers large portions of a person’s face with deep, painful pustules and inflammation. It is also very likely to leave behind scars and is all but immune to over-the-counter acne medication.
How to Treat
Moderate acne may be treatable with strong over-the-counter products, but severe acne usually requires prescription-strength assistance. Moderate acne comes and goes on its own, but usually severe acne is persistent enough that waiting it out isn’t an option. If you’re not sure about what your type of acne needs, consult a dermatologist to figure out a treatment plan.
Prescription-strength topical acne ointment is the first step in most plans and can fall into a few different categories. Retinoids are used to clear pores and help clear up skin when applied topically, while antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial causes for breakouts. There are also combination medications that can do both at once, with greater strength for worse acne.
Additionally, oral medication is an option, either on its own or used in conjunction with ointments. Oral antibiotics are an option, as are contraceptive pills and spironolactone to help balance estrogen levels and prevent breakouts from happening (for women only). As a last resort, you might also be prescribed isotretinoin, which is an extremely powerful acne medicine that can potentially cure acne permanently, though it can only be used for short periods and might severely dry your skin.
The acne treatment that works for one person may not always work for another, but acne doesn’t have to be forever. As they say — where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with persistence, you can find the treatment that works best for you and your skin.