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What is Acne?

Acne is the term for pimples and complexion problems that occur in many young people and some adults. Pimples usually occur on the face, but may extend to the neck, chest, upper arms, back, and legs.

What causes it?

Acne usually begins at puberty and may continue for many years. Teenagers get acne as the body matures and produces hormones that stimulate the oil-producing (sebaceous) skin glands. Oil glands within the hair follicles, or pores, become clogged when oil secretion occurs faster than the oil and skin cells can exit the pores. Sometimes the clog causes the wall of the pore to rupture causing redness, swelling, and pus - in other words a pimple. Clogged oil glands may form blackheads and whiteheads. Blackheads are not caused by dirt, rather by a bacteria that normally lives on the skin. Sometimes, this bacteria multiplies and causes inflammation and acne.

Acne is genetic and often runs in families. Also, for women, acne frequently worsens at the time of menstruation.

What can be done?

Acne cannot be completely prevented. Although, a careful skin care regimen can help to lessen its severity and the formation of new pimples.

Treatment options:

  • Over-the-counter treatments that can help improve acne include salicylic acid, sulfur, and benzoyl peroxide. They are available in washes, creams and gels.
  • Prescription treatment is recommended if you do not see improvement after one to two months.
  • Topical treatments include antibiotics, benzoyl peroxides, and vitamin A derivatives. Topical medications are sometimes used in combination with antibiotics for optimal results.
  • Photodynamic Therapy utilizing Levulan Blu-U Blue light treatment is also an option.
  • Accutane, an oral vitamin A derivative, is a strong, effective acne treatment which effectively clears signs of acne in many people. There are potential side effects to accutane therapy and proper counseling and monitoring is essential.

Helpful tips:

  • Wash your face twice daily with a gentle skin cleanser to prevent oil build-up.
  • Do not scrub your face with a harsh washcloth or sponge. Scrubbing may actually make it worse by irritating the skin.
  • Try gentle cleansing with your hands.
  • Topical astringents can be used to remove excess oil after cleansing.
  • Don't squeeze, scratch, or pick the lesions. This can leave tiny, permanent scars on your face.
  • Your cosmetics should be labeled "oil-free," or "noncomedogenic."