Annoyed by papules?
You are not alone!
Imagine waking up on the day of a big event — a friend's wedding, a family reunion, anniversary with your bae.
You prepare what you are going to wear, rummaging your closet and trying on every possible outfit for the event.
You've planned your makeup look for this event for the past couple of days.
You just want everything to go swimmingly.
But as you turn to look at yourself in the mirror, there they are — small, red, hard bumps glaring at you. Some on your forehead, a bit on the cheeks, a little one at the tip of your nose — papules. Itchy, annoying bumps that have come to dampen your spirits.
You try and cover them with makeup, only to find that not only do they itch more, but their texture peeks through — no matter how hard you try to cover them with your trusty concealer.
Yes, papules are stubborn little bumps, a type of blemish from acne, that we all have to deal with at some point.
Hopefully, you never had to experience these annoying bunch on any special days.
Like all other acne blemishes I've already talked about, papules need to be understood before treated.
If you want to learn why you are experiencing papules and how you can get rid of them, keep reading.
What Are Papules?
The manifestation of acne into different types of blemishes can can be confusing.
It's normal to refer all blemishes as pimples. But to fight them properly, to get back to the glowing complexion you deserve, understanding what they are first, is the key to getting rid of them.
Among the five types of blemishes is the papule.
In the medical terms, papules are the early pimples that appear as small, red, hard bumps on our skin. These take shape when debris clogging the pores push deeper into the skin.
Unlike pustules, papules are not filled with pus and usually (when treated right) go away without scarring.
If you guessed that popping them is a no-no, you are right. Before you get tempted to pop them, be aware of the potential scarring it might bring, too.
The good news is most papules can easily be treated from your own home.
Difference Between Papules and Pustules
The cause of blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, and papules is very similar.
Our skin has sebaceous glands that produce sebum — the material responsible for our skin's natural moisture.
These glands can get clogged with dead skin cells that mix with sebum to form a plug in the follicle.
...When this mix – trapped beneath the skin is invaded by C. acnes, the acne bacteria, the skin gets inflamed.
When you get a papule, the body's immune system sends white blood cells to fight the infection. When the white blood cells die and collect inside the papule, a pustule is born.
You can quickly determine the papules by searching for red spots that are not filled with pus — the yellowish liquid that fills the center of the red bumps.
Sometimes pustules can cluster together and form a rash. If this happens soon after you start a new medication, you should consult your doctor immediately.
How to Get Rid of Papules
The sooner we rid ourselves of these glaringly red bumps, the better!
Before jumping into my recommendations...
I will share that now that I've consulted and coached quite a few people, plus learning more about the science, that there's more to it than just using a few products.
Your skin reacts best by going through a specific process. I call it the acne clearing process, and the way I teach it is through these 4 phases:
1. heal and strengthen the skin's microbiome and skin barrier
2. exfoliate and bring air into the follicles with products like salicylic acid
3. use stronger acne-fighting ingredients if necessary
4. use a chemical peel to transform the skin from dull to healthy-looking
If learning more about how to get rid of acne the best way, consider signing up for SkinTalk where I share the latest in the acne space, what works best for my clients, and basically everything you need to know to get rid of acne yourself.
Okay let's look at 2 simple methods for fighting the annoying papules:
With its properties — keratolytic, comedolytic, and anti-inflammatory, salicylic acid (SA) is an excellent choice for combating papules.
Its keratolytic property means SA is capable of removing excess skin that forms lesions such as warts, calluses, and papules. Being comedolytic, SA can inhibit the formation of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). And with anti-inflammatory properties, SA can counter the inflammation C. acnes causes when it infects comedones.
SA does all these by working as an exfoliant, helping your skin shed dead skin cells more effectively. It penetrates the follicle, encouraging faster skin cell turn-over within the follicle. This de-gunking helps keep the pores clean.
You can find salicylic acid in all kinds of over-the-counter products — cleansers, toners, medicated pads, and creams. Those products are found in strengths varying from 0.5% to 2%.
These products are easy to use. They vary in application and usually have instructions included. Typically, you can apply them like a toner after cleansing. If you have sensitive skin, it is best to leave SA on for only up to 30sec., then rinse it off. Those with more resilient skin are alright with leaving the acid on overnight. Remember to apply moisturizer as this solution can be drying.
These are typically milder than other topical acne solutions, and most people don't experience side effects when using SA. But of course, your mileage may vary. Always listen to your skin's needs. You may notice dryness, peeling, and flaking. To keep side effects at bay, you can use a more hydrating moisturizer.
Benzoyl peroxide (BP) works by introducing oxygen into the pores. This news is fantastic for our needs because the acne-causing bacteria cannot live in an oxygen-rich environment. In other words, benzoyl peroxide makes your skin an inhospitable place for papules.
Along with this anti-bacterial property, like SA, BP is also keratolytic, comedolytic, and anti-inflammatory. The downside with BP is that it is more likely to irritate the skin, sometimes causing redness and skin flaking. It can even bleach clothing, towels, bedding, and hair.
BP products come in the form of washes, lotions, creams, and gels. The recommended strength of a benzoyl peroxide product is 2.5 percent. A review of BP percentages shows that 2.5% BP treatment is as effective as BP in higher concentrations. Increasing the strength will not lead to increased effectivity, only more irritation/side effects.
Also, BP makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. It increases the chances of wrinkles, sunburn, and pigmented acne scars. So make sure to use proper sun protection when adding BP to your routine. You can either use a moisturizer with SPF30 or find a good sunscreen.
Like the reminder for SA, BP can be drying, so make sure you never run out of moisturizer when you are doing benzoyl peroxide treatments.
Though papules can be extremely annoying, be thankful that they have yet to evolve into pus-filled pimples. If treated correctly, you can find yourself papule-free in a matter of time. In some cases, you may need to wait 10 weeks or more before seeing an improvement in your skin's overall appearance.
There are no instant nor overnight treatments for papules. So, be consistent and patient with applying the treatment you found best for you. Along with this, be careful when choosing treatments. Mishandling these treatments may lead you to have more problems than what you started with.
Are you in doubt? Always seek your dermatologist's advice before picking up the next OTC product.
Do you experience papules? Do you have any hacks that work for your skin? Share with us in the comment section below.
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