Close up of the side of a young woman's face. She is smiling looking up. She has a nose ring and acute acne and acne scars around the jawline and cheeks.

Inflammatory Acne: How to Cope With It

Inflammatory acne is a particularly painful variant. It is characterised by red, swollen, and tender lesions that can leave scars if not properly managed.

Among the different types of acne, inflammatory acne is a particularly painful variant. Inflammatory acne is characterised by red, swollen, and tender lesions that can leave scars if not properly managed. Here we delve into the details of inflammatory acne, explore its causes, and provide practical tips for treating and preventing it.

What is Inflammatory Acne?

Inflammatory acne, also known as acne vulgaris, occurs when the skin’s hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. This results in inflammatory papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts. Unlike comedonal acne, which primarily involves blackheads and whiteheads, inflammatory acne is accompanied by visible signs of inflammation, such as redness and swelling.

Causes of Inflammatory Acne

Several factors contribute to the development of inflammatory acne:

  • Excessive Sebum Production: Hormonal imbalances during adolescence and other stages of life can trigger an overproduction of sebum, an oily substance that lubricates the skin. Excess sebum can clog the hair follicles and initiate the acne formation process.

  • Bacterial Infection: Propionibacterium acnes, a bacteria that naturally live on the skin, can exacerbate acne. When hair follicles become clogged, P. acnes multiply rapidly, leading to inflammation and acne lesions.

  • Inflammation: Inflammatory responses by the body’s immune system contribute to the redness, swelling, and tenderness commonly associated with inflammatory acne. In some cases, the body’s immune response may be overly aggressive, exacerbating the severity of the acne.

  • Genetic Predisposition: Certain individuals have a genetic predisposition to acne, making them more susceptible to developing inflammatory acne. If one or both parents had acne, it increases the likelihood of their children experiencing it.

Treatment & Prevention of Inflammatory Acne

While inflammatory acne can be challenging to deal with, there are treatment options and preventive measures to help manage it:

  • Gentle Cleansing: Cleanse the affected areas twice daily using a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser. Avoid scrubbing aggressively, as this can irritate the skin and worsen inflammation.

  • Topical Medications: Over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids can help reduce inflammation and control acne breakouts. Follow the instructions carefully and gradually introduce new products to avoid excessive dryness or irritation.

  • Prescription Medications: Your GP may prescribe oral antibiotics, hormonal therapies (such as oral contraceptives) or stronger topical treatments. In more severe cases, they may refer you to a dermatologist who can prescribe isotretinoin, a potent medication for severe acne. These treatments target the underlying causes and can lead to significant improvements.

  • Professional Treatments: Dermatological procedures like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser therapy may be worth considering to accelerate the healing process, reduce scarring, and improve the overall appearance of the skin.

  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can play a role in preventing and managing inflammatory acne. This includes maintaining a well-balanced diet, managing stress levels, getting regular exercise, and avoiding picking or squeezing acne lesions, which can worsen inflammation and increase the risk of scarring.


Inflammatory acne can be both physically painful and emotionally distressing. However, with the right approach, it is possible to manage and reduce its impact on your skin and well-being. 

Everyone’s skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take a while to find the most suitable treatment regimen for your inflammatory acne – stay positive, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.

Remember that acne is a common condition that affects many people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s important to not let your skin define your self-worth.

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