Acne is the most common skin condition
in the United States.

Though common, accurate information about acne can be scarce. This can make it difficult to get clearer skin. The information on this site can help you understand acne and how to successfully treat it.

Why treat acne?

Myths about acne are as common as the skin problem itself. One common myth is that you have to let acne run its course. Dermatologists know that letting acne runs its course is not always the best advice. Here’s why: Without treatment, dark spots and permanent scars can develop on the skin; Treating acne often boosts a person’s self-esteem; Many effective treatments are available.

More women getting acne

Not just teens have acne. A growing number of women have acne in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. Dermatologists are not sure why this is happening, but understand that adult acne can be particularly frustrating.

Acne signs

Many people think that acne is only having “pimples”. But a person who has acne can have any of these blemishes: Blackheads, Whiteheads, Papules, Pustules (what many people call pimples), Cysts, and Nodules. Acne appears on the face, but it can also appear on other areas of the body. Acne can appear on the back, chest, neck, shoulders, upper arms and buttocks.

Acne symptoms

Acne can cause more than blemishes. Studies show that people who have acne can have:
Low self-esteem: Many people who have acne say that their acne makes them feel bad about themselves. Because of their acne, they do not want to be with friends, they miss school and work, grades can slide, and absenteeism can become a problem.
Depression: Many people who have acne suffer from more than low self-esteem. Acne can lead to a medical condition called depression. The depression can be so bad that people think about committing suicide. Many studies have found that teens who believe that they have “bad” acne were more likely to have such thoughts.
Dark spots on the skin (temporary): These spots appear when the acne heals and is a result of the inflammation. It can take months or sometimes years for some dark spots to disappear.
Scars (permanent): People who get acne cysts and nodules often see scars when the acne clears. You can prevent these scars. Be sure to see a dermatologist for treatment if you get acne early — between 8 and 12 years old. If someone in your family had acne cysts and nodules, you also should see a dermatologist if you begin to develop acne. Treating acne before cysts and nodules appear can prevent scars.

Who gets acne?

If you have a bad case of acne, you may feel that you are the only one. However, many people have acne. It is the most common skin problem in the United States. About 40 to 50 million Americans have acne at any one time. Most people who have acne are teenagers or young adults, but acne can occur at any age. Newborn babies can get acne. Both men and women get acne. Also, some women first get acne when they reach middle age.

What causes acne?

Acne appears when a pore in our skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells rise to surface of the pore, and the body sheds the cells. When the body starts to make lots of sebum (see-bum), oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore, instead of rising to the surface. Sometimes bacteria that live on our skin, p. acnes, also get inside the clogged pore. Inside the pore, the bacteria have a perfect environment for multiplying very quickly and the pore can become inflamed and swollen. If the inflammation goes deep into the skin, an acne cyst or nodule appears.

How do dermatologists diagnose acne?

To diagnose acne, a dermatologist will first examine your skin to confirm that you have acne. Other skin conditions can look like acne.

How do dermatologists treat acne?

Today, there are many effective acne treatments. This does not mean that every acne treatment works for everyone who has acne. But it does mean that virtually every case of acne can be controlled. People who have mild acne have a few blemishes. They may have whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and/or pustules (pimples). Many people can treat mild acne with products that you can buy without a prescription. A product containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid often clears the skin. More advanced cases will require prescription medications. Despite some claims, acne treatment does NOT work overnight. At-home or prescription treatment requires 4-8 weeks to see improvement. Once acne clears, you must continue to treat the skin to prevent breakouts.

Dermatologists offer the following types of treatment:

Acne treatment that you apply to the skin: Most acne treatments are applied to the skin. Your dermatologist may call this topical treatment. There are many topical acne treatments. Some topicals help kill the bacteria, while others work on reducing the oil or normalizing skin turnover. Your dermatologist will determine what will work best for your skin type.

Acne treatment that works throughout the body: Medicine that works throughout the body may be necessary when you have painful, swollen types of acne. Your dermatologist may prescribe antibiotics, birth control pills, hormonal medications, Isotretinoin, or others.

Procedures that treat acne: Your dermatologist may treat your acne with a procedure that can be performed during an office visit. These treatments include light therapies, chemical peels, acne removal, drainage or direct injection (when a quick response is needed). Our cosmetic spa has several procedures including facials, peels, topical treatments, Aqua Clean, other procedures to enhance your results.

What are some other tips?

1. Do not squeeze acne to get rid of it. Acne treatment takes time to work. While you are waiting for treatment to work, it can be tempting to squeeze acne to get rid of it. Squeezing tends to make acne worse and can even cause a permanent scar.

2. Do not tan to get rid of acne. Trying to clear your acne by getting a tan may not be as safe as you think. Research shows that people who use tanning beds and sunlamps increase their risk of getting melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, by 75%. Getting a tan from the sun also increases your risk of skin cancer. Tanning also causes people to see wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of aging much earlier. In addition, many acne treatments increase the skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun and tanning beds.

3. Treat your acne. Thanks to research breakthroughs, virtually every case of acne can be controlled. If you cannot find a treatment that works, a dermatologist can help.

4. Be gentle to your skin. Scrubbing your skin clean will not clear acne and can actually irritate the skin and make acne worse.

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