What Are the Treatments for Acne Pustules & Blackheads?

Acne pustules and blackheads occur when oil blocks a hair follicle and forms a plug. Blackheads are open at the surface of the skin, causing the dirt and oil in the pore to oxidize and turn dark. Pustules are closed, hidden beneath the skin. They appear as red bumps with a puss-filled white tip. It is important to know how to properly treat acne. Improper acne-removal procedures can lead to infection and scarring.

Consistent Routine

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, blackheads and pustules can sometimes be cared for at home with a consistent skin routine. Wash the face with a gentle cleanser twice a day to rid the skin of excess oil and dead skin cells. Follow up with an over-the-counter topical acne treatment that contains either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Do not use abrasive washes, scrubs, astringents or masks if you suffer from acne. These products can cause irritation of the skin, leading to more breakouts. In addition, do not over-wash or scrub the face–this can also lead to irritation and further breakouts.

Blue Light Therapy

Experts at the Mayo Clinic explain that blue light therapy is sometimes used to treat acne. It works by exposing the affected skin to a low-intensity blue light source. This light therapy destroys the P. acnes bacterium that causes acne. The procedure is painless and is usually administered over several sessions by a dermatologist or doctor. Temporary dryness or redness may occur after treatment. A newer light therapy combines both blue and red light, which may be more effective than blue light therapy on its own.

Chemical Peels

Dermatologists use chemical peels to unclog pores, encourage new skin growth and remove blackheads and pustules. The Mayo Clinic says this process involves the application of chemicals, such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid, to the affected skin. Chemical peels are usually used in conjunction with acne gels or creams because they allow the medication to absorb into the skin easier. Side effects can be slightly more severe than other forms of acne treatments. Patients may experience blistering of the skin, scaling, redness, crusting, infection, scarring or even abnormal skin discoloration. All effects are temporary and will fade over time.


For persistent acne, some dermatologists may decide to prescribe oral antibiotics. The American Academy of Dermatology states that antibiotics work by reducing the amount of P. acnes bacteria on the skin. In turn, this reduces inflammation and prevents acne from recurring. Doctors typically start with a high dosage of antibiotics and reduce as the pustules and blackheads improve. Some common antibiotics include erythromycin and tetracycline. Patients taking antibiotics should be closely monitored. Side effects may include gastrointestinal irritation and staining of the teeth. Do not use them if pregnant or breast feeding. Some types of antibiotics affect skeletal and tooth development.