Acne Treatments

What is Acne?

The easiest way to describe acne is to say that the oil glands in the skin are either becoming clogged, inflamed, or infected. Those are the three main factors when acne is developing.There are three main types of acne: comedonal acne which most people describe as blackhead and whitehead acne, where the pores are actually clogging; inflammatory acne, which a lot of people describe as big red pustules on the skin, a lot of my patients will describe it as something that they want to pop or pick at to try to open up that pore; and the third type, which is the most uncomfortable type of acne for most patients is something called nodule cystic. A lot of people describe those as hard lumps, or what we refer to as nodules under the skin. They’re really painful, they last for weeks to months, and they can leave discoloration and scarring behind.

Scarring can actually happen from inflammatory acne as well, especially if it’s manipulated. If somebody is picking at it, or trying to pop those breakouts, they can lead to discoloration. In Arizona, the amount of sun we get on a daily basis can lead to discoloration, even without manipulation of those lesions, and they can also lead to indentations that are being left behind as well.

We’re all familiar with acne and know that it can be unpleasant and cause permanent scarring, as well as emotional distress. Acne occurs when our pores clog (commonly called blackheads and whiteheads), red inflamed pimples arise, and deeper lumps known as “nodules” occur on the face, neck, back, chest, shoulders, and upper arms. Although acne is most commonly experienced during our teenage years, adults may experience acne during their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or even older. Acne may be triggered by a variety of causes such as hormones, birth control, childbirth, or menopause.

Cleaning your face regularly, eating a healthy diet, and wearing as little cosmetics as possible are only a few of the steps you can perform to help control the development of acne. While some acne can clear up on its own without treatment over the course of several years, others will continue to suffer from this skin condition throughout their entire life. If common cleansers aren’t working for your acne, you may want to consult with our expert dermatologists at Arizona Dermatology to discuss other possible acne treatments.

We offer several dermatological treatment options to help give you clear skin and keep the acne from returning in the future. Our treatment options and recommendations vary by the severity of your acne, needs and budget. Many patients can often improve mild acne by washing with a facial cleanser twice a day, using prescription acne medications and/or receiving chemical peels. For more severe cases, a laser treatment or blue light photodynamic therapy may be recommended. In addition to acne itself, acne scarring can also be treated in a variety of ways, including the use of certain skin care products, chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, soft tissue fillers, and microdermabrasion or micro-needling. Read about a few of our acne treatments below, and then schedule an appointment with us to find the best acne treatment for you.

Medications To Treat Acne

When we treat acne, we come at it from the perspective of what kind of acne does that patient have. So if for example, somebody has really mild acne, or they’re really young, a lot of times, we’ll just recommend over the counter cleansers, things like benzoyl peroxide, which is anti-inflammatory or salicylic acid. Both of those products can be found over the counter. We also offer an over the counter cleanser in our practice called epionce lytic gel cleanser, which is all-natural and helps exfoliate, and with inflammation as well.

If that’s not enough, then we start turning to prescription medications, so we’ll use topical things. In particular, with comedonal acne, where there’s a clog in the pore, we’re actually looking for something that’s going to very gently exfoliate that out. We’ll use a topical cream that works to do that; it’s a family of medications referred to as retinoids.

If we’re unable to get the resolution that we want with those, or if we feel like there is more of an inflammatory breakout, we often will have a conversation about oral medications also. So those are going to include antibiotics, in particular doxycycline, minocycline tend to be our first step. They’re both anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory, so they’ll help with both components of the acne.

Facial Cleansers

Facial cleansers are a basic necessity to remove oils, makeup, and debris from your face that accrue throughout the day. If you don’t use the proper cleaner for your skin type, you may experience unwanted side effects such as irritated or dry skin. Believe us, there is a facial cleanser for every skin type, even for those that may need a more aggressive cleanser than others. Below are a few of our favorite and most popular medical grade cleansers, many of which you can purchase over the counter at your nearest drug store.

1. Facial Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser (Medical grade)
2. Facial cleansers with active ingredient Salicylic Acid (Neutrogena, Aveeno) (over the counter)
3. Facial cleanser with active ingredient Benzoyl Peroxide (PanOxyl) (over the counter)

Prescription Acne Medications

Prescription acne medications are a way to clear the development of acne internally. These treatment options include Benzoyl Peroxide, Retin-A, Aczone, oral antibiotics (Doxycycline, Minocycline), Accutane or hormone modulator for females (Spironolactone). Our skin care professional will diagnose your skin condition and recommend a prescription acne medication to deliver the best results possible for your specific condition.

Services To Treat Acne

Beyond prescription medications, we offer a number of services in our office. So for example, if you have these nodules or you have a really inflamed breakout that’s not responding to treatment, we can do injections of cortisone. It’s a diluted Kenalog that gets injected directly into the acne breakout, takes the inflammation down, and helps with redness as well. So something that may take weeks, even months to go away on its own, that process of resolution can be expedited by using an injection. Some people get improvement resolution within a week’s time or something like that.

We also offer acne surgery. So that’s a process where an aesthetician will come in, especially for blackhead and whitehead acne, if there’s an area that’s difficult, that’s just not responding to treatment, or it’s difficult to reach with treatment; for example inside the ears, the nose, the lips. She can surgically open up that pore, get that clog out, and that will resolve those breakouts a little bit more quickly. We offer chemical peels. There’s a number of them that we offer, and they vary in severity, so we can use very gentle ones to help with just, again, have exfoliating and opening up those pores. We have more aggressive ones that can help with pigment scarring, sometimes even indented scarring, so there’s a number of options that patients would have in regards to that.

She also does something called micro-needling. So that’s a procedure where she holds a wand of sorts that has a collection of needles at the tip. The needles will penetrate the skin, cause some trauma to the skin, which then causes the immune system to come in and replace that collagen and lift that scar, so it helps with any indented scarring that might be happening.

Acne Extraction

Acne extraction is a form of surgery performed by our aesthetician experts in order to professionally and deeply cleanse the skin on the face. This treatment cleans the patient’s clogged pores by thoroughly removing any blackheads and whiteheads on the face. As a result of this treatment, it will likely reduce the amount of outbreaks and lessen the severity of your ongoing acne.

Corticosteroid Injection

The light corticosteroid treatment is injected into a large, swollen pimple or cyst to instantly flatten and reduce scarring. The treatment releases cortisone, which is a natural chemical the body produces to quickly reduce inflammation and stimulate the healing process. This fast acting treatment is recommended for acne that may appear deep within the skin and is unaffected by other acne treatments. The light corticosteroid treatment is an especially great procedure for those needing quick results for an upcoming event.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are an excellent way to bring back the smooth texture of your skin. We offer many different treatments such as light, medium, or heavy depth chemical peels for various skin types. The people who come in for our chemical peels are usually suffering from acne, extensive sun damage, or just want a rejuvenated appearance. Our chemical peel treatments have also been known to cut down on precancerous lesions that may lead to the development of skin cancer.

1. AlphaBeta Peel– multiple acid peel (Salicylic, Glycolic, Lactic acids) reduces acne causing bacteria, removes congestion within pores, and improves discoloration caused by acne. This treatment has no downtime, allowing you to walk out of our office with visible results.

2. Vitalize Peel – multiple acid peel (Salicylic, Lactic, Retinoic acids and Resorcinol) that reduces acne causing bacteria and removes congestion within the pores. Moderate exfoliation improves discoloration, pore size and scarring caused by chronic acne with minimal downtime to give you the clear skin you’ve always wanted.


An instrument which utilizes fine needles is used to create “micro-tunnels” of the skin. These microscopic wounds stimulate the skin’s natural healing process which increases collagen and elastin production. Micro-needling breaks up scar tissue, plumps acne scarring, reduces pore size and improves skin texture. Acne targeting medications are applied at the start of the procedure and driven into target areas by the instrument to increase effectiveness. The depth of penetrated medication enhances results to give you the results you’ve been hoping for.


Microdermabrasion utilizes a diamond tip to sand or exfoliate the outermost layer of your skin. The exfoliated skin is suctioned through an attached vacuum to remove dead skin cells and improve pore congestion, skin texture and acne scarring. Without the downtime of exfoliation process, microdermabrasion is an excellent option for patients suffering from acne.

Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is recommend to remove acne scarring once the chronic acne has cleared. During this process, the top layer of skin (epidermis) is ablated or removed. The laser penetrates the skin by sending a short pulse of light to the targeted area, and heat from the laser is penetrated in the second layer of skin (dermis) to stimulate an intense collagen reaction. The combination of ablating the epidermis and stimulating deep collagen production improves moderate to severe acne scarring and rejuvenates skin, giving you firm, evenly colored, beautiful skin.