Mild Acne

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What is mild acne?

Most dermatologist put acne into three categories: mild acne, moderate acne, and severe acne. According to the FDA, mild acne includes some comedones and one or two papules and/or pustules. So what do these actually look like?

Comedones: Small white or dark bumps on your skin (whiteheads or blackheads).
Papule: A pimple with some redness or swelling.
Pustule: Similar to a papule, but it will have a white pus-filled top.

Find out if you have mild acne:

Read the following descriptions to see if they relate to you:

  • Most of my breakouts are non-inflamed comedones (whiteheads or blackheads).
  • I get an occasional red pimple, but they are pretty small and infrequent.
  • My pimples feel like they are only on the top of my skin and not very deep or painful.
  • I never get nodular acne (inflamed, hard, and painful breakouts).
  • I never get scars from my breakouts.

If all of these describe your skin, you probably have a mild case of acne. If these don’t resinate with you, you may have a more severe form of acne or a different condition all-together. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to consult with a dermatologist. Dermatologists see acne patients every day, they know exactly what to look for, and they can get you access to the most effective acne medications on the market.

How to treat mild acne:

Thanks to scientific breakthroughs, virtually all acne can be treated–especially mild acne. The medications that you will need are going to depend on the types of acne lesions that you have. Here, we have broken down the best treatment options for comedones as well as papules and pustules.

Treating comedones:

If you only have whiteheads or blackheads, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that you use a topical retinoid like Retin-A, Differin, or Tazorac. Topical retinoids are only available with a prescription, which requires a consultation with a dermatologist. If you wan’t to try an over-the-counter treatment before visiting the dermatologist, salicylic acid is a good substitute.

Treating papules and pustules:

If you have any redness or swelling around any of your acne lesions, the AAD recommends that you use both a topical retinoid and a topical antimicrobial. Effective topical antimicrobials include benzoyl peroxide (available as prescription or over-the-counter) and prescription topical antibiotics like clindamycin, erythromycin, and tetracycline.


  1. Thiboutot, Diane et al,. “New Insights into the Management of Acne: An Update from the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne Group.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 60.5 (2009): S1-S50.
  2. Strauss, J. “Guidelines of Care for Acne Vulgaris Management.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 56.4 (2007): 651-63.
  3. Fkhouri, Tarek. “Advancement in Benzoyl Peroxide-Based Acne Treatment: Methods to Increase Both Efficacy and Tolerability.” Journal of Drugs in Dermatology 8.7 (2009): 657-61.
  4. “Acne Vulgaris: Developing Drugs for Treatment.” Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). (Sept. 2005) Web.


Moderate Acne Moderate Acne - What is moderate acne? Moderate acne is commonly defined by many comedones and/or many papules/pustules, but no more than one nodular lesion. So what does this mean? Comedones: Small white or dark bumps on your skin (whiteheads or blackheads). Papules/Pustules: Pustules … Continue reading

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