Different grades of acne and how to treat them

Raised red bumps are a common sign of acne but not its only symptom. Rough, uneven skin is another sign, as are blackheads and whiteheads. What’s the fix? That depends on the type and severity of the acne lesions. Acne vulgaris (the medical term for common acne) manifests in four levels of severity: Grade 1 acne is mild while Grade 4 is severe. Get to know how your breakouts are graded. Then you can zoom in on a treatment plan that works for your skin.


How severe is your acne?


Acne vulgaris is a skin condition that results in blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, nodules, and cysts. The lesions typically appear on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, and back. Although most common around puberty, acne affects adults too. 

The blemishes can sap your confidence but look on the bright side: Nearly everyone you meet has dealt with acne at some point. You are not alone in this. Besides, acne vulgaris is treatable once you know what you are dealing with. So, let’s pull up a mirror and take a closer look at your skin. It is time to decode those breakouts!

  • Acne Vulgaris Grade 1: Mild acne

Grade 1 acne is the mildest form of acne vulgaris. The blemishes you see are mainly blackheads and whiteheads along the nose or forehead. Occasionally, one or two small red pimples may erupt. The skin is mostly clear with little to no redness, swelling, or pain.

  • Acne Vulgaris Grade 2: Moderate acne

This is a step up from Grade 1. The skin is now peppered with numerous blackheads and whiteheads. There is also a rise in the number of pimples on the face. These appear as firm reddish bumps known as papules and pustules. A pustule also features a white or yellowish dot, which signals the presence of pus. 

  • Acne Vulgaris Grade 3: Moderately severe acne

Once your acne progresses to Grade 3, more papules and pustules appear. The skin becomes inflamed, red, and tender. Because of the greater number of pimples, there is an increased risk that the breakouts will spread and merge with each other. Occasionally, inflamed nodules will form. These hard bumps on the skin contain no pus but are painful to touch. 

Grade 3 acne tends to leave scars as the infection is embedded deep within the skin. The blemishes may not be restricted to the facial region either. The back, chest, and shoulders are often affected as well.

  • Acne Vulgaris Grade 4: Severe acne

By this stage, the skin is covered with blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, nodules, and cysts. The acne lesions tend to be large and, overall, the skin looks red and inflamed. Grade 4 acne is also referred to as cystic acne because of the appearance of frequent cysts. Acne cysts look like large, pus-filled blisters and can be very painful.

The risk of scarring is very high because the lesions are both large and deep. If you suffer from Grade 4 acne, there is a high chance that your upper chest and back are affected too. 


How to treat your acne: Dos and don’ts

By now you have an idea about the severity of your acne. No matter what the grade, it helps to be gentle with acne-prone skin. So, let’s first focus on what not to do:

  • Don’t squeeze or pop the lesions. This may spread the infection and increase the risk of scarring.
  • Don’t wash your face too frequently or aggressively. That could strip the skin of its natural oils and make it break out even more.
  • Don’t use toiletries or cosmetics that clog the pores. Look for ‘non-comedogenic’ formulas when shopping for skincare products.


Begin by waving goodbye to harsh soaps. They strip your skin of natural oils, which may send the sebaceous glands into overdrive and land you with excess sebum levels. When selecting products for your acne-prone skin, keep these tips in mind:


And what are the things you should do? Here are a few:

  • Do wash your face twice a day with lukewarm water and a mild cleanser. Look for gentle, non-abrasive cleansers that suit your skin type.
  • Do wash off excess oil and grime after exercise or being outdoors. That said, try not to wash your face upwards of three times a day.
  • Do invest in a gentle formula like Clearica Anti-Acne Cream. It tackles acne symptoms like inflammation and dullness while fighting acne bacteria and limiting the spread of infection.


Final words

If your acne is severe or does not improve despite consistent home treatment, consult your dermatologist. They may prescribe topical or oral medicines to ease your symptoms. 

Whether you meet with a doctor or use over-the-counter products, remember to be patient. Several weeks of sustained action may be required to clear up the acne completely. And if a new pimple appears, just take a breath. With the right care, this zit can be made to disappear too!



Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.