Condition > Active Acne

Types, Causes and Treatment for Acne

Active acne is a very common skin problem and can infect the face, chest, shoulders and back. Acne often begins to form during your teenage years. While it generally resolves, acne can sometimes persist and be a major problem throughout your life.

Acne during puberty is a result of your skin’s response to hormonal changes. During puberty, your skin’s sebaceous glands produce excessive sebum (skin oil). The sebaceous gland openings to the skin’s surface frequently get blocked, forming whiteheads and blackheads. The fatty acids within these blocked oil glands become infected by bacteria living on the surface of your skin. This infection leads to skin inflammation, followed by pustules, and sometimes, painful cysts.

Acne is aggravated by stress, insufficient sleep, changes in hormone levels around the time of menses, a hot and humid environment, using incorrect occlusive sunblock or makeup, close-fitting clothing, and headgear.

Treatment for active acne should start early, untreated acne usually causes disfiguring skin scarring which may result in some acne sufferers developing emotional and social inadequacies.

Each type of acne lesion requires a different treatment. Receiving prompt, correct treatment can reduce the risk of long-term skin complications, such as dark spots and scarring. Acne blemishes fall into two categories, depending on whether they cause inflammation of the surrounding skin.

Types of acne


Noninflammatory acne types : Whiteheads and blackheads are types of noninflammatory acne lesions. They are the least severe forms of acne and are usually not painful and does not cause swelling.

  • Whiteheads
    The medical term for whiteheads is closed comedones. These are small, whitish or flesh-colored spots or bumps. They usually have a white, circular center surrounded by a red halo. A hair will sometimes emerge from the center of a whitehead, or it may appear to be trapped within the blemish. The skin around a whitehead may appear to be tight or wrinkled, especially when the whitehead is large or especially raised. Whiteheads typically do not cause scarring.

  • Blackheads
    Blackheads are called open comedones. They are small, black or dark-colored spots that may appear as slightly raised bumps. The skin around a blackhead usually appears normal, while the center of the blackhead is darker than the surrounding area. The coloration is not a result of trapped dirt, when the skin over the bump opens, exposure to air it causes the contents of a whitehead to darken.

Inflammatory acne blemishes types : Blemishes or lesions that are inflamed, or red, swollen, and warm to the touch can result from inflammatory acne. Types. s of inflammatory acne includes, papules, pustules, nodules and cyst

Minor-to-mild forms

  • Papules
    Papules are small red bumps under the skin’s surface. Unlike whiteheads, papules have no visible center of pus and unlike blackheads, the pores of a papule do not appear to be widened. Acne papules occur when comedones rupture and disperse the bacteria into the skin tissue, causing irritation.

  • Pustules (pimples)
    Pustules are larger, tender bumps with a defined circular center. The center is usually filled with whitish or yellowish pus, due to an infection of the pore cavity. Pustules acne are usually hard and can be painful and the skin around the bump may be red and inflamed.

Moderate-to-severe forms

  • Nodules
    Nodules acne is a severe form of acne that are large, hard, painful, inflamed lumps located deep within the skin. They look like larger, deeper papules and have no visible center or head. This type of acne lesion occurs when clogged pores damage tissues and cells deep beneath the skin’s surface and can cause skin complications such as dark spots or scarring.

  • Cysts
    Cysts acne is the most serious type of acne and they are usually very large, soft, painful, red or white lumps filled with pus that are situated deep in the skin. When the cyst bursts, the infection can spread, causing the skin to have more breakouts. Cysts can also cause skin complications, such as scarring if not treated.

Types of Acne
Dr Chiam CT

What are the treatment options for acne?

Different types of acne lesion requires different treatment approach. To avert further damage as quickly as possible, I use a multifactorial approach to treat active acne.

A combination of epidermal and dermal laser treatments, together with Intense Pulse Light(IPL) and phototherapy, with the concurrent application of topical medications, can usually clear active acne and improve the scar appearance quite rapidly. 

Other available acne treatment in Singapore

IPL Acne Therapy
LED PhotoTherapy
Repair Acne MediFacial
Skin Peel Renewal