Acne: Types, Treatments, and Causes

Acne: Types, Treatments, and Causes

Acne can be difficult for many teens (and adults) to deal with, but it is so common! According to many studies, as much as 95% of teenagers develop it at some point. I was one of the few teenagers who had severe acne.

I woke up every morning with bad pain all over my face and arms. I was afraid to go anywhere because my face was so swollen. If you are interested in learning about my experience with acne, check out My Acne Journey. In this article, I will discuss the types, treatments, and causes of acne.

P.S. I will not be showing pictures because they are disturbing for many people.

The Main Causes of Acne in Teenagers

Acne has many causes, especially in teenagers, but for most, it is hormones. Hormones affect every part of the body, but when you are a teenager with higher levels of them, you are likely to experience increased acne. The main hormones that affect acne are testosterone and estrogen. Both increase during puberty.

Another hormone that can affect acne is insulin. New studies have shown insulin and insulin-like hormones to increase skin oil production, thus worsening acne. Insulin levels increase when you eat sugary or processed foods. Avoiding simple carbohydrates can help with reducing acne.


Estrogen and testosterone are the two main hormones that cause acne, although insulin can also have an effect.

The Three Main Types of Acne

There are three main types of acne, non-inflammatory, inflammatory, and cystic.

Non-Inflammatory Acne

Non-inflammatory is the most common type of acne and includes blackheads and whiteheads. The best treatments for non-inflammatory acne are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

Inflammatory Acne

Inflammatory acne is a type of acne that causes red, swollen, and sore bumps. This acne is much more severe than non-inflammatory acne and can cause permanent scarring. The best treatments for inflammatory acne are prescription antibiotics (topical and oral) and isotretinoin.

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is the most severe type of acne. This type of inflammatory acne often requires harsh medication and skin surgery in some cases. If you have cystic or inflammatory acne, be sure not to damage your skin by picking at it, as this will increase your risk of severe scarring.


The three types of acne are different and have their own treatments. If you have non-inflammatory acne, you will likely do fine with over-the-counter options. On the other hand, if you have inflammatory or cystic acne, you will likely need prescription medications for the treatment of your acne.

Treatments for Acne

There are two categories for acne treatment, over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. Most cases of non-inflammatory acne can be treated fine with over-the-counter options, but inflammatory and cystic acne often require prescription medicines for adequate treatment.

Over-The-Counter (OTC)

Over-the-counter acne medicines include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is the most common acne treatment. It is very effective for most people, usually clearing acne after a month.

  • Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid helps to clear dead and old skin cells, preventing them from getting clogged into pores, and causing acne.

  • Adapalene

Adapalene is a new retinoid-like acne treatment.

  • Retinol

Retinol is an effective but usually expensive acne treatment that increases the renewal of your skin cells.


Prescription treatments for acne include:

  • Isotretinoin (Oral)

Isotretinoin is a medication with many side effects but works wonders with acne.

  • Antibiotics like doxycycline and erythromycin

Antibiotics are the first treatment option for most people who see a dermatologist for acne

  • Tretinoin (Topical)

Tretinoin is a topical medication that acts like a stronger version of retinol.

  • Spironolactone

Spironolactone is an oral medication for women struggling with acne. It helps to reduce the hormones that cause acne.

When It’s Time to See a Doctor

It can be difficult for some people to visit a doctor for acne. In reality, you should go as soon as you can because you never know if your acne will get worse. If you go to a dermatologist or primary care doctor, they will likely help you to drastically improve your acne.


Many effective options are available to treat all three main types of acne.


Severe acne can be one of the most complicated skin conditions. Luckily, there are many over-the-counter and prescription treatment options. A quick doctor visit can make a huge difference in how you deal with acne. I hope everyone reading this article gained insight into how acne can affect teenagers and the different ways available to treat it.