Acne is the development of blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, or cysts. This skin conditions is most common in teenagers, but can also occur in adults and children.
Dead skin cells and oils travel up to the surface of the skin through pores. Sometimes there is too much of an oil, called sebum. The extra sebum causes dead skin cells to stick together and block the pore. This is what causes acne. Bacteria can also become trapped in the pore and cause an infection. The infection causes he familiar redness and pus. It can also spread down into the skin and cause cysts.
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Blackheads are clogs that reach the skin's surface. Whiteheads are clogs that stay beneath the surface of the skin. Small red bumps, pimples, and cysts may develop if bacteria is causing an infection.
Factors that increase your chance of acne include: Family history
Changes in hormone levels, such as during:
PubertyPregnancyThe time before a menstrual periodStressCertain cosmetic products especially those that are greasy
Acne symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. They include: Excess oil in the skinBlackheadsWhiteheadsPapules—small, pink bumps that may be tender to the touchPimples—inflamed, pus-filled bumps that may be red at the baseNodules—large, painful, solid lumps that are lodged deep within the skinCysts—deep, inflamed, pus-filled lumps that can cause pain and scarring
The areas of your skin most likely to develop acne will be examined. The doctor can make a diagnosis based on physical exam.
If your acne is severe, you may be referred to a dermatologist (skin specialist).
Acne will require a combination of treatments. Most treatments may take several weeks to work. Your skin may actually appear to get worse before it gets better.
It is also common to have to change treatments during recovery.
Medications to treat acne include: Over-the-counter topical medications, such as cleansers, creams, lotions, and gels to reduce the amount of oil and/or bacteria in the pores.Prescription topical antibiotics or retinoids to reduce the amount of oil and/or bacteria in the pores.Oral antibiotics to control the amount of bacteria in pores.Medications to control certain hormone levels.
Oral retinoids to reduce the size of oil glands. This medication is only used for severe cases of cystic acne.
Must not be taken by women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant due to the risk of serious birth defects.Potential
complications need to be followed with frequent examinations and blood work.
There are a number of procedures that can be used by your doctor or dermatologist to treat acne, examples include: Corticosteroids—an injection of corticosteroid directly into the cyst; mostly used for large, cystic acne lesionsAcne surgeryChemical peels—uses glycolic acid and other chemical agents to loosen blackheads and decrease acne papulesDermabrasion
—used to treat deep acne scars
Scar excision—used to reduce or improve the appearance of acne scarsCollagen fillers—used to add volume to acne scars to make them appear more smoothLight and laser therapies
Some of the procedures have risks, such as scarring and infection.
To decrease irritation of your acne: Gently wash your face with mild soap and warm water no more than twice a day to remove excess oil. Scrubbing or washing too often can make acne worse.Allow your face to dry before applying any lotion.Do not pick at or squeeze blemishes.Use lotions, soaps, and cosmetics labeled noncomedogenic. This means it won't clog your pores.Use topical acne treatments only as directed. Using them more often could make your condition worse.Recognize and limit emotional stress whenever possible if it triggers your acne.Wear sunscreen year-round. This is especially important if you are using medication that can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Acne is caused by a changes in your body's process so it is difficult to prevent. Acne is not due to improper hygiene.
Acne. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at:
https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/a---d/acne. Accessed November 7, 2014.
Questions and answers about acne. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Acne/default.asp. Updated May 2013. Accessed November 7, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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