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Do I have cystic acne? Identify (and treat) the different types of acne

Are you wondering: “Do I have cystic acne?” Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States*, but there is an abundance of misinformation out there. Keep reading to learn if you truly have cystic acne and how to identify and treat different types of acne.

What is Acne?

Let’s start with the basics. By definition, acne is a chronic disease of the sebaceous glands (the part of your skin that produces oil) that occurs as inflammatory eruptions affecting the face, upper back, and chest. Acne consists of blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, and cysts. They can occur in puberty and adolescence, but aren’t confined to those ages, despite popular belief. Acne can be successfully treated and controlled by sticking to a strict regimen, but not 100% cured. It can re-occur at any time.

What is cystic acne?

Many people are quick to label their pimples as cystic acne, but “cysts are large, flesh-toned bumps that are infected under the skin – they are usually quite painful,” – Teresa Stenzel, Bioelements Director of Education. True cystic acne occurs deep under the skin and are categorized as a severe form of acne.

The acne scale grade

To understand how cystic acne compares to different types of acne, view the acne grade scale below. This grading scale is used by physicians to rate the physiological severity of acne, so that the treatment will be appropriate to the condition.

Non-inflamed acne grades

  • Grade 1 is characterized by micro-comedones (small skin colored bumps), and excessive open comedones (blackheads) and closed comedones (whiteheads).

  • Grade 2 is characterized by excessive open and closed comedones. In addition, papules (inflamed solid pimple) and pustules (larger pimple containing pus) are present.

In general, non-inflamed acne is significantly easier to treat with at home skin care and the help of an esthetician.

Inflamed acne grades

  • Grade 3 is characterized by papules and pustules, and fewer comedones. Occasional nodules (a small rounded lump) or cysts (large, very deep pimples) can appear. It is recommended that you seek a licensed medical physician in addition to an esthetician.

  • Grade 4 is characterized by nodules and cysts, with fewer papules, pustules and comedones. This severe form is caused by severe inflammation and can result in follicular structure damage (acne scarring). Grade 4 acne conditions must be treated by a licensed medical dermatologist.

At the end of the day, if you have cystic acne consistently, you need to see a licensed medical professional to treat it.

What causes acne? The 4 acne trigger factors

To stop the vicious cycle of acne from repeating itself over and over, you need to control its four trigger factors:

1) Excess Sebum

Sebum (oil) is produced in sebaceous glands that are found all over the body except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. In humans, the major stimulus to sebum development and secretion is the male hormone called androgen.

Scientific evidence supports that the average rates of sebum secretions are higher in persons with acne than persons without acne.