What is acne?
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
How you feel about your acne may not be related
to how bad it is. Some people with 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.
What causes acne?
Acne starts when oil and dead
skin cells clog the skin's pores. If germs get into the pores, the result can
be swelling, redness, and pus. See a picture of
how pimples form .
For most people, acne starts during the teen
years. This is because hormone changes make the skin more oily after puberty
Eating chocolate or greasy foods may cause some people to break out, but studies haven't proven that eating chocolate or high-fat foods increases the risk of acne. 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.
What are the symptoms?
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.
How is acne treated?
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.
If you have just a few
pimples to treat, you can get an acne cream without a prescription. Look for
one that has benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These work best when used just
the way the label says.
It can take time to get acne under
control. But if you haven't had good results with nonprescription products after trying them for 3 months, see your doctor. A prescription gel or skin cream may be all you need. If you are a woman, taking certain birth control pills may help.