“It’s well-known that people associate a healthy person with healthy skin,” says skin specialist and esthetician Emily Allen of Heaven Day Spa in San Francisco, California.
“There are the four different grades of acne,” Allen explains. “Understanding each is step one in creating a healthier complexion.”
Grade 1 Blackheads and open comedones.
“A comedone is like a blackhead with a hardened ball that looks like a yucky pearl which is comprised of bacteria and dead skin cells, and it accumulates in the follicle until it gets so big the follicle stretches open, commonly on your nose,” says Allen.
Grade 2 Blackheads and papules.
“Papules are raised red bumps, which are minor, and there’s no puss inside or a white head — a typical blemish,” says Allen.
Grade 3 Papules, open blackheads, and some pustules — typical teenage-type acne.
“It’s getting heavier at this grade, becoming chronic and can leave scarring. The face is red and inflamed.”
Grade 4 Cystic acne.
“This is a case where a dermatologist is needed,” says Allen.
“For all skin types, start with a foaming cleanser — nothing milky or creamy, and preferably one that is soap-free,” explains Allen. Next, Allen advises that you use a topical product with salicylic acid. Moisturizers, pore-openers, and blemish spot-treatments are all available at drugstores nationwide. “Salicylic acid is one of the most effective products for mild to moderate acne,” says Allen. “The key to acne is to keep the inflammation down, and salicylic acid not only acts as an exfoliant, it’s the only acid that’s an anti-inflammatory.”
“Finally, benzoyl peroxide is really great as a spot treatment,” says Allen. “Apply it right on the blemish. The reason that it’s so great is it puts oxygen in the skin, and it exposes that blemish-causing bacteria so it literally dies.”
Style Sessions Tip: Sulphur is a great drying agent, and also helps diminish redness that often remains when a blemish heals. “I like a good sulphur mask when I have a breakout,” says Allen. “Then I spot treat with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid at night.”