Acne surgery is an option for those whose breakouts don’t respond to other treatment methods. Acne is the medical term for the condition that causes pimples to form when the pores of the skin become clogged with oil and dirt.  This is a very common condition that can strike at any age but most often affects teenagers. 

There are many products on the market today designed to help combat acne.  Ranging from ointments to cleansers, these products aim to cleanse the pores and restore a healthy complexion.  In most cases, this will be more than enough to treat acne symptoms.  In some severe cases, however, more invasive methods may be necessary to remove inflamed and non-inflamed growths.

When pimples do not respond to standard treatment, your doctor may suggest one of several surgical methods for removing them.  These can include chemical peels, laser acne treatment and acne surgery.  With surgery, the pimples are opened and drained of pus, allowing the skin to flatten and heal.  While many people are tempted to squeeze or prick pimples for drainage on their own, that is never recommended.  Only a trained professional should open pimples so that scarring is minimized and infection can be avoided.

What kinds of acne surgery are there?

Removal of non-red or non-inflamed acne lesions differs from that of red or inflamed lesions. Comedones (blackheads) and closed comedones (whiteheads) are non-inflamed. They usually cause little distress. These can be removed mechanically with comedone extractors and a fine needle or a pointed blade to open closed comedones. Such maneuvers are temporary, and new comedones may form to replace the ones removed. Removal of comedones is usually done by a nurse or an esthetician. Retin-A is a medication that can help prevent the formation of comedones and is available from the dermatologist.

Incising or cutting open inflamed lesions for drainage used to be popular; however, with the introduction of cortisone injections, this method is used less often. Incising a lesion may leave a small scar; injecting cortisone does not. However, the rare, large, deep acne lesions may not respond to cortisones and may have to be incised. Cutting open or incising large acne lesions is always done by the doctor.

Cortisone injection of a diluted corticosteroid into an inflamed pimple typically leads to improvement within a day or two, with flattening of the lesion. Flat lesions are more readily camouflaged with makeup or a tinted acne lotion. Cortisone injection therapy is useful as the sole method of treatment of intermittent acne (acne that only flares from time to time). It is helpful as an additional treatment when acne is not adequately suppressed with antibiotics. Cortisone injections are always given by the doctor.

Laser treatment involves the use of a focused beam of light to burn off a pimple.  This method is less invasive than incising, but it can result in scarring.  It is most effective for smaller outbreaks, where only a few pimples are involved.

Chemical peels are another less invasive method than acne surgery where chemicals are applied to the face and allowed to harden slightly, then removed gently.  As the chemical is pulled from the skin, surface growths will be extracted with it.  Again, there can be some scarring, but as with laser treatment, scarring is less significant than with incising of pimples.

Which procedure is best for me?

If you have a serious acne problem and are looking for a solution, your best bet is to visit your dermatologist and figure out which one of these procedures would be the best for your particular situation. It’s possible that you are not a candidate at all, and you may just be able to minimize your outbreaks with an over the counter or prescription medication such as tetracycline. Talk to your doctor and see what your options are.