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Men's Health

Acne Treatments for Men

Acne in men is on the rise, but acne treatments are better than ever
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The gross anatomy of a zit continued...

When the trapped stuff gets backed up, pressure grows, stretching the walls of the follicle. This may give bacteria a chance to multiply in the clogged follicle, known as a comedo or sometimes incorrectly as a comedone. If the follicle wall ruptures, your immune system will respond by sending cells to attack the bacteria and other foreign matter in the comedo. In the ensuing battle, the surrounding skin becomes red and inflamed. You might even see a little pus full of dead bacteria and immune cells.

While acne in men may not be dangerous, it certainly can be distressing — and it’s surprisingly common too. 17 million adults in the U.S. have acne, with 25% of them being men. Acne is also affecting more people after adolescence. One 1999 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found thatthe median age of people with acne has risen by almost 23%, from 20.5 years to about 26.5 years.

What causes acne in men?

The cause of acne can be traced to the sebaceous glands, which start releasing generous quantities of sebum during adolescence and continue to do so throughout life. But why does sebum continue to cause acne in men who are well beyond the hormone surges of adolescence?

“I don’t know if we have an answer to that,” says Christopher B. Harmon, MD, of Total Skin and Beauty Dermatology Center in Birmingham, Alabama. “Genetic predisposition is a major factor — more than diet or environment. The kind of skin someone is genetically programmed to have will determine who gets acne and who doesn’t.”

Acne treatment

Basic acne treatment involves keeping follicles open by using a variety of skin cleansers that exfoliate, or remove dead skin cells.

“Over the counter products tend to contain peroxide or glycolic acids, which help prevent plug formation,” Harmon says. “And exfoliating the skin helps peel away those dead scales.”

Harmon tells WebMD that many non-prescription gels, creams, lotions, pads, and other acne products that help exfoliate and cleanse the skin include two familiar ingredients:

  • benzoyl peroxide, which destroys bacteria that can get into follicles and trigger infection
  • salicylic acid, which,like glycolic acid, helps unclog pores, although it provides only temporary relief unless it’s used every day

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