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Acne - Topic Overview

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Acne, or acne vulgaris, is a skin problem that starts when oil and dead skin cells clog up your pores. Some people call it blackheads, blemishes, whiteheads, pimples, or zits. When you have just a few red spots, or pimples, you have a mild form of acne. Severe acne can mean hundreds of pimples that can cover the face, neck, chest, and back. Or it can be bigger, solid, red lumps that are painful (cysts).

Acne is very common among teens. It usually gets better after the teen years. Some women who never had acne growing up will have it as an adult, often right before their menstrual periods.

How you feel about your acne may not be related to how bad it is. Some people who have severe acne are not bothered by it. Others are embarrassed or upset even though they have only a few pimples.

The good news is that there are many good treatments that can help you get acne under control.

Acne starts when oil and dead skin cells clog the skin's pores camera.gif. If germs get into the pores, the result can be swelling, redness, and pus.

For most people, acne starts during the teen years. This is because hormone changes make the skin oilier after puberty starts.

Using oil-based skin products or cosmetics can make acne worse. Use skin products that don't clog your pores. They will say "noncomedogenic" on the label.

Acne can run in families. If one of your parents had severe acne, you are more likely to have it.

Symptoms of acne include whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. These can occur on the face, neck, shoulders, back, or chest. Pimples that are large and deep are called cystic lesions. These can be painful if they get infected. They also can scar the skin.

To help control acne, keep your skin clean. Avoid skin products that clog your pores. Look for products that say "noncomedogenic" on the label. Wash your skin once or twice a day with a gentle soap or acne wash. Try not to scrub or pick at your pimples. This can make them worse and can cause scars.

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