Acne Papules: Causes and Treatment Options

    For many of us, pimples and zits are a curse of adolescence.

    And while acne — a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles under the skin become clogged  — affects upward of 95 percent of U.S. teens each year, between 40 and 50 million U.S. adults also suffer from it

    While frustrating, with proper medication, acne typically begins to go away after two to three months.

    Other types of acne can be more stubborn. For many, acne papules fall into this category. The good news is that there are various treatment options for those struggling with acne.

    What Are Acne Papules?

    Unlike whiteheads and blackheads which are forms of noninflammatory acne, papules are examples of inflamed acne, appearing as small red bumps on the skin.

    Papules form when oil and skin cells clog a pore, causing a blockage called a comedo — or comedones, if there are multiple. The oil lodged in the skin feeds bacteria. 

    This process results in what’s called a microcomedone, which can be seen and felt on the skin. If it grows, it becomes a lesion, which may rupture, sending bacteria down into the skin tissue. 

    When this happens, your body fights the bacterial infection by inflaming the site of the comedone. 

    The resulting lesion is a papule, also called a pimple or zit.

    What Causes Acne Papules?

    While oil and dead skin cells are the main culprits behind papules, there are other factors involved. They include:

    • Diet. The jury is out on whether what you eat and drink impacts your chances of developing acne. Some studies have found a link between consuming refined carbohydrates and acne.
    • Stress. In a study of adolescents with mild-to-moderate acne, researchers measuring sebum production did not find a link between high or low stress levels and acne, but determined that all experienced stress levels that contributed to their acne.
    • Hormones. Acne can flare up in reaction to hormonal changes in the body, especially when the level of androgens, which affect reproductive activity and male traits, rise in the body. This occurs during puberty and also during menopause.  
    • Genes. While there is no so-called acne-gene, one study of 458 pairs of monozygotic and 1099 pairs of dizygotic twins found that family history of acne was associated with increased risk.

    How Are Acne Papules Treated?

    Suffering from acne papules can be annoying and in some cases distressing. However, there are ways to treat this condition that should help clear blemishes in a matter of months.

    One of the keys is keeping your skin properly cleaned and preventing it from becoming too oily. 

    This includes: 

    • Use a mild, non-drying soap or cleanser, or one with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide once or twice a day and after exercising if your skin is on the oily side. 
    • If you have oily hair, wash it daily and pull strands away from your face. 
    • Avoid oil-based makeup and cleansers and toners that are too drying, which may increase your skin’s oil production.

    Persistent acne can also be treated with topical over-the-counter acne medications that may contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, adapalene, resorcinol or salicylic acid. 

    These ingredients kill bacteria and dry skin oils. 

    Unfortunately, they may also make your skin peel or become red. If this happens, drop to every other day or a few days a week until your skin becomes used to them.

    You may also try using a smaller amount and wait 10 to 15 minutes after washing your face to apply them.

    Stubborn acne may need different medications, often prescribed by a healthcare professional. 

    These might include antibiotics, gels or creams, isotretinoin pills, hormone therapy for women, chemical skin peels or photodynamic therapy, a light-based procedure that is thought to shrink the skin’s oil glands.

    Women may also try Hers Acne Treatment, a regimen that includes a customized prescription cream, moisturizer and cleanser to help treat specific skin issues.

    In Summary: Acne Papules 

    No one likes an acne flare-up. But with the proper personal hygiene habits and targeted medications especially for your skin type, you can help clear zits and pimples. 

    Those with stubborn or severe acne might benefit from talking to a healthcare professional about other acne treatment options such as customized prescription acne cream from Hers.

    This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.