Papule Acne: Treatment and Causes

Papule Acne: Treatment and Causes

The struggle with acne is personal.

While acne is generally viewed as a superficial health problem affecting the body, the real danger lies in acne's ability to harm a person's mental health. 

papules acne

Every teen knows how difficult it is to deal with acne. From anxiety to questioning our self-worth and even bouts of depression, severe acne brings a lot of added challenges that go further than skin deep.

For most people, this side-effect of adolescence is temporary. However, some of us aren't so lucky. And truth be told, when we're long past sweet sixteen, we need to take better care of ourselves, which makes learning more about what causes acne papules more important than ever.

So, What is Acne?

What we call acne is actually a complex sum of varying skin conditions - there are over a dozen various types of acne. Ranging from simple blackheads all the way to pustules, nodules, and cystic acne, our 'enemy' is diverse and difficult to defeat. On top of that, it's annoying as hell!

But as the saying goes, knowledge is power, and today we'll talk about one of the less dangerous types of acne: papules acne. Albeit less unseemly than other types, acne papules are still a pretty uncomfortable type.


What Causes Acne Papules?

Acne is often caused by excess oil production.

Acne papules form when small, clogged hair openings (called comedones) become clogged and inflamed with oil and skin cells. While a normal comedone transforms into a blackhead or a whitehead, acne papules are a real pain because the inflammation can spread through an entire area. This can worsen acne, leaving the skin's natural barrier red and painful to the touch, creating red bumps.

Imagine a blemish becoming a hundred times worse. Acne papules cause tiny, numerous pimples which can't be burst or cleaned elegantly. In fact, trying to do so often results in intense pain because a large surface of the skin has already been damaged.

What's worse, rubbing the area usually spreads the infection to healthy skin, because the 'wildfire' is actually caused by Propionibacterium acnes, a common microscopic skin resident.

papules acne bacteria

This bacterium is one of the most abundant creatures living on our skin, but it's usually dormant. However, when hair follicles become clogged and filled with oil, they basically resemble huge pizza joints for the Propionibacterium acnes.

Suddenly, the little critters have the feast of their lives, and thanks to the abundance of skin oil (i.e., 'bacterium pizza'), they multiply like crazy and never want to stop. (Yeah, it's pretty much like Black Friday for bacteria.) This makes the hair follicles bruised, red, and finally burst.

These explosions of bacteria and oil spread over the surrounding skin, making it inflamed, bumpy, and sore. Dermatologists call these tiny red bumps papules, hence the name papules acne. They're awful as is, but what makes matters even worse is that they can leave scars too.

papules acne treatment shame

But Wait, it Gets Worse

The 'usual' acne papules can accumulate pus and acne-causing bacteria. They grow big and bulging, effectively transforming themselves into super-acne vulgaris, a so-called acne nodule. Both papules and nodules form due to blockage of the hair follicle, but nodules become clogged much deeper in the skin tissue and resemble small 'hills' over the usually normal, smooth skin terrain.

That's because the follicle wall actually bursts under the pressure of the infected material, which then spills into the surrounding dermis - thereby forming a nodule. (Think of an underground water explosion, only a lot nastier and super gross.)

As you can imagine, acne nodules take longer to heal than papules too. While acne papules can be dealt with within days or weeks, nodules are extremely painful and can drag on for months and even leave scars. Make no mistake - this is serious, and the best way to treat this type of acne is to consult a dermatologist.

But back to papules acne, which is thankfully easier to manage. Depending on the severity of the inflammation, you have several weapons at your disposal.

papules acne

Papules Acne Treatments

Solutions, solutions! Of course, that's what we're here for. If it's just a few spots on otherwise clean, healthy skin, your best bet is to use acne spot treatments.

The most effective acne spot treatments are topical treatments containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur, which can be easily found in most drug stores. But it's crucial to keep an eye on the ingredients so you can use the right thing to help your skin heal.

You wanna know why? Besides being wise with your money, there are other good reasons too. Sit tight - it's time for a brief science lesson.

Benzoyl Peroxide

An otherwise pretty generic compound used in a number of different products and industries, benzoyl peroxide is particularly well-suited for the treatment of acne. Why, you might ask?

papules acne oxygen

Well, it's sort of ingenious, really.

See, our' friends,' the Propionibacterium acnes are anaerobic fellows, which is science-speak for "they hate oxygen." This is where the 'peroxide' part of this substance comes into play. It is basically an oxygen shower for the filthy oxygen-hating partygoers. These acne-inducing bacteria hate oxygen, so they run away or choke on it, and the inflammation tones down.

Additionally, the extra oxygen helps with the unclogging of pores and follicles, so it's a win-win!

Salicylic Acid

When a scientist says something is keratolytic, what they're actually trying to say is that it helps dissolve the cellular bonds that keep dead skin cells together. This means that keratolytic keeps the pores clean, dismantles all the dead pimples, and hastens skin regeneration.

Salicylic acid is a well-known keratolytic, and although it can be found in nature (like inside tree bark), the ingredient used in skin care solutions is usually synthetic. This is just as well because it gets the job done.

However, we must remember that this acid doesn't have antimicrobial properties, so it won't fight bacterial infection on its own. But when combined with benzoyl peroxide and sulfur, it works wonders.

Try Misumi's Clear Skin Salicylic Cleanser. This little miracle will unclog clogged pores, remove impurities, dead skin cells, and excess oil, and soothe and calm angry breakouts on the skin's surface.

sulfur papules acne


It stinks like rotten eggs, it's used in matchsticks, and it can be found in volcanoes - but it eats acne for breakfast.

Originally referred to as brimstone, sulfur was one of the earliest treatments against acne in the history of humanity. But why? Well, sulfur being sulfur - a mildly caustic chemical element - dries the skin and makes it peel.

On top of that, sulfur also has the useful property of absorbing excess oil (sebum), so it also aids in the prevention of acne lesions in the first place.

Of course, this isn't recommended for healthy skin (and you should never do it), but when dealing with hormonal or inflammatory acne breakouts, it helps a lot.


So How Do I Do It?

As the name suggests, these spot treatment solutions should be applied sparingly - and only to inflamed pimples. Just dab some solution on each acne papule (gently), and you should see results in a few days.

Keep in mind that the treatments we discussed above aren't the be-all and end-all. You can also try things like a topical glycolic acid treatment or topical retinoids (such as Misumi's Retinol Intense Repair PM Creme).

In most cases, as long as the acne papules don't mutate into the acne equivalent of supervillains (aka nodules), healing occurs quickly. Keep in mind that you'll need to be willing to be disciplined and follow a routine. One dab on Monday morning won't help much - consistency is key when treating any type of acne - from mild to moderate acne.

However, be mindful that acne spot treatment products are the final solution for papules acne. They are a post-inflammatory treatment but not a preventive measure.

papules acne prevention

Other Acne Papules Treatments

Acne develops for lots of different reasons, so it's hard to say why exactly acne papules occur. Depending on the type of acne formation you have depends on the treatment you receive. If you're suffering from hormonal acne breakouts (caused by hormonal changes), your doctor may prescribe oral contraceptives (otherwise known as birth control pills.)

For example, anti-androgen pills will block male sex hormones (testosterone) and encourage the oil glands to produce less oil, calming acne vulgaris and, thus, acne papules and acne lesions.

You also may be prescribed oral antibiotics to treat papules. Keep in mind that you cannot get any of these over the counter. To receive these acne papules treatments, you'll have to visit a doctor.

Those suffering from acne vulgaris may also try home remedies. From apple cider vinegar to lemon juice, there are many ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties that acne-suffers swear by. However, before you try any ingredient (or skin products), make sure to do a patch test. This will limit the chances of atopic dermatitis or an allergic reaction.

The Keyword Here Is Prevention

Ideally, your best bet is to never let your skin become the massive pizza joint for the billions of Propionibacterium acnes partygoers in the first place. To ensure that doesn't happen, you need skin-cleaning solutions.

Thankfully, for reducing inflammation, most over-the-counter skin cleaning products work pretty well. Just look for the magic combo of salicylic acid, sulfur, and benzoyl peroxide, and you're good to go.

However, you will have to see a dermatologist for severe papules acne. You'll need to get your acne papules treated by a professional.

papules acne doctor

The Best Acne Prevention Routine

If you're looking for a way to prevent acne (and treat acne papules in the process), try Misumi's Complete Clear 3-Step System- the perfect routine for acne-prone skin. Made up of a mild cleanser, toner, and moisturizer, this system will kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce excess sebum. It will also unclog pores and remove impurities. With its anti-inflammatory properties, it will calm angry breakouts and encourage healthy skin growth.

Try it now!

When in Doubt, Consult a Dermatologist

Remember, everyone is different. Each person's metabolism works at different speeds and in different ways. Some people are allergic to strawberries or peanuts, while others gorge themselves full without blinking an eye. Just like with food, drinks, and diets, human skin types are similarly diverse.

Do you have unusually dry skin? Or maybe an especially oily skin type?

Even if you're smack dab in the middle of the skin type spectrum, the treatment that your dermatologist will devise for your acne papules will be adequate for your skin type. Furthermore, a professional dermatologist will also take your personal health needs into account. So why wait?

Professional dermatologists will prescribe you a specific acne medication and come up with a skin treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. These plans are usually not short-lived and need to be followed for weeks and sometimes even months (or, in severe cases, years).

There is no easy way to say this, but you'll need to be persistent, responsible, and disciplined. Following a routine is crucial because it's not enough to treat the inflammation or its consequences, but slowly change your approach so that acne never happens again. Or if it does, it takes a milder, more manageable form.

If you're suffering from untreated acne vulgaris and you have never seen a dermatologist before, make an appointment now! The last thing you need is nodular acne to develop.


When it comes to treating acne, don't despair. There are a million different ways you can treat acne papules, from taking over-the-counter oral medications and birth control pills to trying topical treatments on the skin. You can even try natural remedies like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.


Androgen Receptor Inhibitors in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris

Management of acne

Evolution and duration of nodules in severe nodular acne

What Is Nodular Acne and How Is It Treated?

This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.
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