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Facing Facts About Acne

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Here are some facts about acne:

  • There is no known way to prevent the development of acne.
  • Acne is not caused by poor hygiene, sweating, or not washing. "These factors do not cause the clogged pores that contribute to acne development," says Liedtka. While medicated washes containing benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, and sulfur are one form of treatment for acne, simple soap and water does not treat the condition, she adds.
  • Acne is not caused by diet. No scientific connection has been found between diet and acne. No food—not chocolate, fries, pizza, or any other food—has been shown to cause acne.
  • Acne does not need to be allowed to run its course. "The condition can be treated," says Liedtka. "There are prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) products for it. If products you have tried haven’t worked, consider seeing a dermatologist."

Types of Acne

Every mark on the skin produced by acne is a type of lesion. The mildest cases of acne produce blackheads and whiteheads. (The color of these is determined by whether the plugged follicle remains open or closed. If it is closed, it is a whitehead.)

More troublesome acne lesions include

  • papules – inflamed lesions that usually appear as small, pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to the touch
  • pustules (pimples) – white or yellow pus-filled lesions that may be red at the base
  • nodules – large, painful, solid lesions lodged deep within the skin
  • cysts – deep, painful, pus-filled lesions that can cause scarring

Treatments

The type of treatment people with acne get depends on the severity of the outbreak. "There are OTC products for mild cases, while a visit to a health care professional such as a dermatologist may be in order for the more stubborn cases," says Liedtka.

Acne treatments are regulated by FDA under the same provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act covering prescription and non-prescription (or OTC) products.

Topical OTC medicines are applied to the skin and come in many forms, including gels, lotions, creams, soaps, and pads. Typical OTC treatments for mild acne include benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, and sulfur.