How to Deal with Severe Breakouts?

a woman who is suffering from severe breakouts

Dealing with severe breakouts can be a frustrating and challenging ordeal. Whether you're a teenager navigating through puberty or an adult battling unexpected flare-ups, the impact on your self-esteem and well-being can be profound. Fortunately, there are effective strategies and treatments available to help you regain control and achieve clearer, healthier skin. In this blog, we will explore various approaches to deal with severe breakouts, empowering you with the knowledge and tools needed to embark on your journey towards radiant skin and renewed confidence.

What is Severe Acne?

Severe acne refers to a more intense and persistent form of acne vulgaris, a common skin condition characterised by the presence of inflamed, red pimples, cysts, and nodules. Unlike mild or moderate acne, severe acne involves a greater number of lesions and may cause significant pain, discomfort, and scarring. It often affects larger areas of the face, chest, and back, and can have a profound impact on a person's self-esteem and quality of life. Severe acne typically requires more aggressive and comprehensive treatment approaches to effectively manage and improve the condition.

What are the Types of Acne?

Types of acne include:


These are non-inflammatory acne lesions that can be open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads). They occur when hair follicles become clogged with excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.


Papules are small, red, raised bumps that are often tender to the touch. They result from inflammation and infection of the hair follicles.


Pustules are similar to papules but have a white or yellow centre filled with pus. They are often larger and more visible, causing redness and swelling.


Nodules are large, solid, and painful bumps beneath the skin's surface. They develop deep within the hair follicles and can cause significant inflammation and scarring.

Cystic acne: 

Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne. It involves deep, inflamed cysts that can be painful, filled with pus, and often lead to scarring. Cystic acne can have a profound impact on self-esteem and requires specialised treatment.

Acne mechanica: 

This type of acne results from friction, pressure, or rubbing against the skin. It commonly occurs in athletes or individuals who wear tight-fitting clothing or use equipment that causes prolonged skin contact.

Acne rosacea: 

While not technically acne, rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes redness, flushing, and acne-like papules and pustules. It primarily affects the face and can be triggered by various factors such as sunlight, stress, and certain foods.

What are the Symptoms of Acne?

Symptoms of acne include:


Red, raised bumps on the skin that may be inflamed and filled with pus.


Open comedones that appear as small, dark spots on the skin's surface.


Closed comedones that manifest as small, flesh-coloured or white bumps on the skin.


Small, red, and tender bumps that are usually inflamed.


Similar to papules, but with a white or yellow centre filled with pus.


Large, solid, painful bumps deep within the skin that can cause severe inflammation.

Causes of Acne

Causes of acne include:

Excess sebum production: 

Increased oil production by the sebaceous glands can contribute to clogged pores and acne formation.

Clogged pores: 

The accumulation of dead skin cells, bacteria, and sebum can block the hair follicles, leading to the development of acne.

Bacterial activity: 

The bacterium called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) can overgrow in the clogged hair follicles, causing inflammation and acne breakouts.

Hormonal changes: 

Fluctuations in hormone levels, especially during puberty, menstruation, or hormonal disorders, can stimulate the sebaceous glands and trigger acne.

Genetic factors: 

A family history of acne can increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

How to Treat Severe Acne?

Treating severe acne typically involves a comprehensive approach that may include:

Consultation with a dermatologist: 

Seek professional advice for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.

Topical medications: 

Prescription-strength creams, gels, or ointments containing ingredients like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, or antibiotics can be applied directly to the skin to reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and unclog pores.

Oral medications: 

Dermatologists may prescribe oral medications such as antibiotics (e.g., tetracycline), hormonal contraceptives (for females), or isotretinoin (for severe cases) to address underlying causes of acne and manage inflammation.

Chemical peels: 

Dermatologists can perform chemical peels to exfoliate the skin, unclog pores, and improve acne. These treatments use chemical solutions that vary in strength, targeting specific skin concerns.

Laser or light therapy: 

Procedures like laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, or blue light therapy can target bacteria, reduce inflammation, and promote healing in severe acne cases.

How to Get Rid of Pimples?

To get rid of pimples, consider the following short points:

Keep the affected area clean: 

Gently cleanse the skin with a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser twice a day to remove excess oil, dirt, and bacteria.

Avoid picking or squeezing: 

Refrain from touching, picking, or squeezing pimples, as this can worsen inflammation and increase the risk of scarring.

Apply topical treatments: 

Use over-the-counter acne spot treatments containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to target and reduce pimples. Follow the instructions provided.

Ice the pimple: 

Applying an ice pack or a cold compress to the pimple for a few minutes can help reduce inflammation and swelling.

Use tea tree oil: 

Diluted tea tree oil, known for its antimicrobial properties, can be applied topically to pimples using a cotton swab. Use caution and perform a patch test as it can be irritating to some skin types.

Take Away

Dealing with severe breakouts can be a challenging and frustrating experience, but there are effective strategies and treatments available. From establishing a targeted skincare routine to seeking professional interventions, it is possible to regain control and achieve clearer, healthier skin. By empowering yourself with knowledge and utilising the right tools, you can embark on a journey towards radiant skin and renewed confidence.


Q: What does stress acne look like? 

A: Stress acne can appear as red, inflamed pimples or as small, raised bumps on the skin. It is often accompanied by increased oil production and can occur in various areas of the face.

Q: How do I know if my acne is hormonal or stress? 

A: Differentiating between hormonal and stress-related acne can be challenging. Hormonal acne often presents as deep, cystic bumps along the jawline or chin, while stress acne can appear anywhere on the face. 

Q: Why won't my face stop breaking out? 

A: There can be several reasons why your face continues to break out, such as excess oil production, clogged pores, bacterial activity, hormonal imbalances, or ineffective skincare routine.


Everything You Want to Know About Acne, By Darla Burke and Steph Coelho, on June 26, 2023

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