What Is Nodular Acne And How To Treat It

Reviewed by Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi

Dermatologist & Trichologist | MD, FCPS, DDV, MBBS

Written by Sanya HamdaniNov 30, 2023
What is nodular acne and how to treat it

Acne is a result of trapped pores. It is a common skin problem that most people experience sometimes or regularly. There are many different types of acne such as blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, nodules, cysts, etc. While most acne heals with topical ointments or go away on their own, others require medical treatment. One of the most severe forms of acne is nodular acne. It is larger and painful compared to other forms of acne as it occurs in the deeper layers of the skin. Nodular acne commonly appears on the face and back. They take a longer duration to heal, sometimes it could even take months. Regular OTC medicines rarely work for this type of acne and almost always expert intervention is required.

Those with nodular acne have a lot of questions on their minds, like how to identify it, what causes this type of acne, what are the treatment options and whether it can be prevented. In this article we will answer all your queries one by one with the help of skin expert Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi of Shine Skin, Hair and Laser Clinic. Scroll down to learn all about nodular acne and how to treat it.


How to identify nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

The first step is to find out whether your acne is nodular or not. For this, you need to look out for a few symptoms that will confirm the type of acne. One of the most common symptoms of nodular acne is that it feels like a hard knot under the skin. Like most acne, it does not have a head and is painful to the touch. The area surrounding the area may turn red and inflamed. You may either experience a few or it will be more widespread. It usually occurs on the face, neck, back and chest and may take several months to heal. Nodular acne often leaves the skin scarred. While anyone can get this type of acne, it is more common among teen boys and young adult males.


Causes of nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

Like most acne, nodular acne too is a result of trapped oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. An overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria, overactive sebaceous glands and excess build-up of dead skin cells in a pore creates the perfect environment for breakouts to develop. Another trigger of nodular acne is an increase of androgen hormones in the body. Androgen can cause the skin to produce more oil as well as change its chemical composition and lead to thicker oil production. This easily clogs pores and leads to acne of the severe kind. Genetics are also to be blamed for nodular acne, if your parents or siblings had it, there’s a good chance that you might get it too.


How to treat nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

Nodular acne is not easy to treat, if the above symptoms conclude that you have it, then the first line of action would be to visit a dermatologist. Treating it with over the counter ointments and creams will have no effect on nodular acne, irrespective of how frequently you use them. A combination of prescription medicines and topical products is required to treat this type of acne effectively. Your dermatologist may recommend one or more of the following treatments mentioned below.


1. Antibiotics for nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

Antibiotics may offer relief from nodular acne as it is caused by bacteria. Your dermatologist may recommend oral as well as topical antibiotics for the treatment. They can quickly reduce the inflammation associated with acne and make it less painful too. However, antibiotics should not be used long-term as it can render them ineffective. Topical antibiotics will calm the redness and inflammation, and it can also kill the bacteria and accelerate the healing process.


2. Isotretinoin for nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

Severe forms of acne like nodular acne can be treated with isotretinoin. Those with widespread nodular acne are often recommended this line of treatment by their dermatologist. It is a vitamin A derivative that helps reduce inflammation and effectively treats nodular acne. Do not self-medicate, because isotretinoin when used in the wrong proportion can have side effects including dryness of the skin, eyes, throat and lips, headache and hair loss too. Sometimes you may not even need isotretinoin for the treatment of nodular acne. Therefore, always visit a skin expert to get the right treatment method.


3. Oral contraceptive for nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

Hormonal disruption in the body can cause the skin to produce excess sebum, which leads to breakouts and acne. Apart from using skincare products that will remove excess oil from the face, your dermatologist may also prescribe oral contraceptive pills to control sebum production. An increase in androgen levels (male hormones) are linked to nodular acne. However, do not self-medicate and pick just about any contraceptive pill because they’re not all formulated the same. Visit a gynaecologist and dermatologist who will prescribe the right one to balance the hormonal disruption in your body. Once it regulates hormonal production, your acne should subside.


4. Office procedures for nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

Dermatologists’ offices also have procedures that can help reduce nodular acne. The procedures are aimed at reducing the bacteria and inflammation around the acne to accelerate healing and prevent scars. Depending on the severity of your acne, the skin expert may recommend one of the following procedures and help you get more even-toned skin.

  • Laser therapy
  • Chemical peels
  • Acne drainage and extraction
  • Medicated injections
  • Blue light treatment


5. Reduce stress for nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

Stress can be bad for your health and can sometimes result in acne. It can also slow down the healing time of your current acne, therefore it is advised to keep stress at bay if you have acne. Practice yoga, meditation and exercise regularly to release happy hormones in the body. Divert your mind by taking a relaxing bath, watching a funny movie or reading a book. Spending time in nature is also known to reduce stress levels.


Are nodular acne and cystic acne the same

How to prevent nodular acne?

Nodular acne and cystic acne are two of the most severe forms of acne and look alike on the surface of the skin. However, one major difference between these two types of acne is that nodular acne does not have a head whereas cystic acne does.

Cystic acne is filled with pus and looks red and inflamed with a bump, it is softer to touch as compared to nodular acne.

Nodular acne looks like bumps on the skin and feel like hard knots under the skin. The line of treatment for both these acne types is usually the same.


How to prevent nodular acne

How to prevent nodular acne?

You can prevent any type of acne by maintaining a healthy skincare routine and using the right products. Here are a few tips that can help prevent nodular acne.

  • Wash your face twice a day with lukewarm water, cleanse it after spending time outdoors or working out
  • Apply a lightweight moisturiser soon after washing your face in the morning and at night
  • Always take your makeup off before going to bed at night
  • Double cleanse at the end of the day to remove dirt, product residue and excess oil
  • Keep your hands off your face
  • Wash your hands before applying any skincare or makeup product
  • Wear a non-oily sunscreen every single day
  • Use a clay mask twice a week to extract oil, dead skin and bacteria


Expert advice

Severe acne can sometimes shake your confidence, but remember that it is just a skin problem and can be treated with medication and consistent treatment. With regular visits to a dermatologist clinic and using the right skincare products you should see results in 3-4 months.

Sanya Hamdani

Written by

Sanya Hamdani is a skincare enthusiast and lipstick hoarder, she truly believes no two red lipsticks look exactly alike. With a Master's degree in Communication & Journalism and 5+ years of digital writing experience up her sleeve, Sanya has some of the biggest beauty experts in the country on her speed dial. When she's not swatching products or writing about the latest trends in beauty, you will find her watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or cooking up a storm in the kitchen.


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