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Pustular Acne

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Pustular acne refers to the appearance and spread of one of the main lesions of acne: pustules. Pustules are inflammatory lesions and when left untreated they can morph into nodules. Find out the right treatment for pustular acne.

What is Pustular Acne?

Pustular acne is a subset of acne vulgaris. It describes one of the presentations of the most common type of acne.

Most people experience their first acne breakouts during puberty. For most people, acne resolves with dedicated treatment after a while and all its signs clear off soon after. However, some people do experience acne deep into adulthood.

Pustular acne gets its name from pustules which are one of the main lesions that appear during an acne breakout. Pustules are inflammatory acne lesions much like papules. However, unlike papules, they appear as red-rimmed, inflamed bumps with white or yellow centers.

Pustules are commonly known as zits.

A few of them can be seen at the early stage of an acne breakout. However, when mild acne progresses to moderate acne, pustules predominate along with papules. They proliferate and spread in cases of severe acne although larger inflammatory bodies are the main features of severe acne.

Pustules can be popped but only with care. If improperly squeezed, pustules can spread quickly and cause deeper damage to the dermis.

This is because the pus inside pustules are filled white blood cells that can cause deep tissue inflammations.

How Pustules Form

Pustular acne is caused by the same factors that cause acne.

Therefore, the most important root causes of pustular acne are acne-causing bacteria and growth hormones.

When growth hormones such as androgens and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) are produced in high amounts, they stimulate increased production of sebum from the sebaceous glands.

These hormones are produced in increased amount for a number of reasons.

Roles of Growth Hormones 
  • To fuel the rapid growth experienced during puberty
  • To process the high glycemic load supplied by certain foods especially high caloric sugary foods
  • In response to abuse of anabolic steroids
  • constant production due to underlying disease conditions such as Cushion’s syndrome or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

These growth hormones can also be introduced into the body from milk and dairy products obtained from animals fed with growth hormones.

Furthermore, androgen levels may dominate in the body simply because of the falling the level of anti-acne hormones such as the female sex hormones called estrogens. This is the cause of acne during menopause and pregnancy.

When there are high levels of androgens such as testosterone and its metabolites such as DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the body, they are bind to the androgen receptors in the sebocytes (cells of the sebaceous glands).

These hormones promote the proliferation of sebocytes and, by extension, the enlargement of the sebaceous glands. These lead to the increased secretion of sebum.

As the excess sebum is pushed to the skin surface, it mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells and then blocks skin pores.

This cause bacterial infection and damage to the layers of the skin.

In response, the immune system sends white blood cells to these sites of injury to stop the infection and heal the damage. However, these cells release a number of inflammatory factors. Therefore, they cause the swelling that becomes pustular bumps.

Without proper care, these pustules can grow to become acne cysts.

Preventing Pustular Acne

Basic skin care regimen can help clear off mild pustular acne and prevent another flare-up.

The first step to take is to change your diet by excluding foods which are known to cause or worsen acne. Reduce your intake of oily, greasy food as well as sugary drinks and snacks. Take a break off milk and milk products to see if your acne gets better without them.

Because stress can also cause acne, try to relax and avoid stressful situations.

Also, avoid compulsively touching your face or picking your acne lesions. These actions will only introduce infections to your skin and cause the pustules on your skin to spread across a greater area.

Wash your face at least twice daily but only use mild and gentle soaps and cleansers. Do not scrub your face trying to remove pustules. This will only irritate the skin and aggravate the acne lesions already present.

Use oil-free moisturizers and introduce lotions, cleansers and creams that contain salicylic acid and/or benzoyl peroxide.

Medications for Pustular Acne

Before consulting a dermatologist, you should try and treat your pustular acne with over-the-counter acne products containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

Both of these active agents are effective against acne-causing bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes and they can also improve the turnover of the skin. These topical acne products are usually combination products. Therefore, make sure to select one with different, proven anti-acne active ingredients.

However, topical and oral antibiotics may also be recommended for treating pustular acne.

Topical antibiotics such as clindamycin and oral antibiotics such as the tetracycline antibiotics are broad-spectrum antibiotics. Using a broad-spectrum antibiotic is important because different bacteria are known to cause pustular acne.

The types of bacteria that can cause acne include both aerobic and anaerobic microbes especially those belonging to the Staphylococcus, Peptostreptococcus and Propionibacterium species.

Antibiotics are effective for killing off the bacteria colonizing the skin during acne breakouts. However, some of them, especially the tetracycline antibiotics, make the skin sensitive to sunlight. Therefore, appropriate sunscreens are recommended for those using antibiotic therapy for pustular acne.

Antibiotic-resistance is also another drawback of antibiotic therapy in acne treatment.

To prevent such resistance, antibiotics are often combined with other acne remedies.

When antibiotics fail, topical retinoids such as adapalene are used to treat pustular acne. These are synthetic vitamin A analogs.

Oral retinoids such as isotretinoin (Accutane) or surgical removal of pustules are rarely used but they remain as effective options for stubborn and severe pustular acne.

Natural Remedies for Pustular Acne

Conventional acne medications are not the only effective treatment for acne. In fact, natural remedies can be just as effective and safer too.

First, you can start with home remedies for treating your pustular acne.

Consider diluted hydrogen peroxide solutions or baking soda to cleanse your face. These work similarly to salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide by drying up the pustules on your skin and increasing the turnover of the skin.

Acne masks are also effective solutions for pustular acne. These can be made from different items that can be found at home.

A popular acne mask is the honey mask. There are different variants of the honey mask each adding one or two anti-acne herbal extracts such as cinnamon or home remedies such as baking soda.

Honey, especially the medicinal Manuka honey, is an especially effective acne remedy for a number of reasons. It contains antibacterial agents; it has an astringent-like quality that dehydrates bacteria cells; and it slowly releases hydrogen peroxide which can gently exfoliate the skin while also killing off acne-causing bacteria.

Other natural acne remedies include tea tree oil, jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, aloe, dong quai, gum guggul, MSM and antioxidant teas such as green tea.

Topical acne products including these natural remedies are also good for treating pustular acne.

These natural remedies can also be combined in oral acne supplements. A prime example of effective oral acne products formulated entirely from natural remedies is Actimine.

Actimine has a high rate of success and it contains the right active ingredients to reduce the inflammatory reaction and eliminate the bacteria that cause pustular acne.





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