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Is Your Acne Under Control? Test Your Knowledge.

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What causes acne?

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What causes acne?

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Acne occurs when excess oil, called sebum, and skin cells clog the pores. Normal skin bacteria can grow in the plugged pores and produce substances that lead to inflammation. Acne is not a sign of poor hygiene. In fact, excessive washing and scrubbing can irritate your skin and make acne worse. And there is no evidence that foods such as french fries, chocolate, or pizza cause breakouts. If your acne is being treated properly, what you eat shouldn't affect your skin.

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Who is the most prone to acne?

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Who is the most prone to acne?

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Anyone can develop adult acne, even if you never had acne as a teenager. But it is most common in women. Like hormonal swings in teens, fluctuating hormones during a woman's menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and even menopause can cause acne to flare. Discontinuing birth control pills, taking certain prescription drugs, a family history of acne, stress, and some skin and hair products may also make women more susceptible.

Acne can be a sign of an underlying condition.

Acne can be a sign of an underlying condition.

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Sometimes, breakouts on the skin can be a sign of a more serious condition underneath. For example, if you have acne along with excess facial hair, thinning hair or bald spots on the scalp, or irregular periods, it could be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome, an adrenal gland disorder, or a hormone-secreting tumor. Until the medical condition is treated, your acne may not clear up.

You are more likely to get acne scars if you:

You are more likely to get acne scars if you:

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Severe acne and a family history of scarring are two big factors in acne scarring. Early, aggressive treatment is the best way to prevent severe acne and keep it from leaving behind its imprint on your face. If your acne covers a quarter of your face or more or you have a tendency to scar or a family history of scarring, get professional treatment early.

You should avoid acne products that contain which of these ingredients:

You should avoid acne products that contain which of these ingredients:

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Some acne products contain alcohol, but it can dry out and irritate skin – potentially worsening acne. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are effective acne fighters that reduce excess oil and help break down whiteheads and blackheads. Retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A, treat acne by unclogging pores, which helps prevent whiteheads and blackheads.

You should see a doctor if acne makes you shy, self-conscious, or depressed.

You should see a doctor if acne makes you shy, self-conscious, or depressed.

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Acne can leave emotional as well as physical scars. Some people say their acne makes them less attractive to dates and employers. Others say it has made them lose confidence or become more pessimistic. These are all good reasons to get professional treatment. With the many treatment options that are available now, there's no reason to let it affect your self-esteem or outlook on life.

Which of these can aggravate acne?

Which of these can aggravate acne?

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Although some people feel that sunlight helps clear up acne, there is no proof of this. Some acne products make skin more susceptible to sunburn. Bike helmets, baseball caps, and headbands that rub against your skin can also cause problems, as can heavy foundation makeup.

People of color may develop dark spots of skin where blemishes were.

People of color may develop dark spots of skin where blemishes were.

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Blemishes that leave behind dark spots, called "post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation," are common in people of color. They are a natural reaction to inflammation and usually diminish over time. But many people who get them feel that they are as unattractive as blemishes. Early treatment from a dermatologist can help you avoid these spots and scarring if you have dark skin.

You should see a doctor if acne hasn't improved with treatment after:

You should see a doctor if acne hasn't improved with treatment after:

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There are no overnight treatments or cures for acne. Because acne treatment is aimed at preventing new blemishes, it takes time to work. If an over-the-counter treatment doesn't seem to be improving your acne after about 4-8 weeks, don't give up. See a dermatologist.

Moderate to severe acne can be helped with:

Moderate to severe acne can be helped with:

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Dermatologists often use combination therapy -- two or more different treatments -- to manage acne. Sometimes this includes an oral antibiotic or contraceptive in women. Birth control pills, which help slow oil production, are most often used for women who get blemishes around their menstrual period. Laser and light therapies are used on both acne and acne scars. They appear to work by destroying the bacteria that contribute to acne as well as shrinking the oil glands where they live.

Question: Some acne can't be treated.

Question: Some acne can't be treated.

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As acne treatments have become more effective, virtually all acne can be prevented or treated effectively. Most cases of moderate to severe acne require the care of a dermatologist, who can prescribe stronger treatments than those that are available over the counter. Even acne scarring can be treated now with laser resurfacing, chemical peels, or other treatments.

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Your answers indicate that you know how to manage your acne breakouts. Keep it up! In addition to using acne medication, you know that daily self-care strategies such as these help prevent acne and flare-ups:

  • Gentle washing, not scrubbing, with a mild soap
  • Using an oil-free sunblock
  • Not squeezing or picking at pimples
  • Using non-comedogenic skin care products

As an added bonus, habits such as gentle cleansing and using sunblock daily are also helping you prevent premature aging. Be sure to maintain your current acne therapy to avoid breakouts a few weeks later. Talk to your dermatologist before you stop your acne therapy or if your breakouts worsen.

Your answers indicate that you know how to control some acne breakouts but could benefit from more acne care tips. If over-the-counter products haven't helped clear up your skin, it's time to see a dermatologist. Even if you just have moderate acne, you should treat it now to prevent severe acne or scarring. This is especially true if scarring or severe acne run in your family.

A dermatologist can prescribe an individual treatment plan for you based on factors such as your age, acne severity, and lifestyle.

If you are prescribed acne medication – or are already using it – you will control your acne better if you:

  • Stick with it. Give a treatment four to eight weeks to be effective.
  • Integrate it into your daily routine. If you forget to take or use your medication, put it somewhere where you'll be reminded. For example, you might keep a twice-daily medication next to your toothbrush so you'll remember it when you brush in the morning and at night.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for when and how to use medication. Over-using a topical treatment, for instance, can irritate your skin and aggravate your acne.
  • Use non-comedogenic skin care products and gentle cleansers.

Your answers indicate that you may have trouble managing your acne and that you may have frequent breakouts. If your acne is not effectively treated, it can lower self-esteem, leave permanent physical scars, and, in some cases, be a sign of a serious underlying condition.

If you've been treating your acne with over-the-counter products alone, keep in mind that a doctor or dermatologist can prescribe a stronger treatment or combination of treatments to combat your acne and prevent scars. They can also determine if a medication may be causing your acne or if you have a medical problem that needs to be addressed.

In addition to using acne medication, these self-care strategies are important for getting control of your acne:

  • Avoid abrasive scrubs or astringents. Using your hands, wash your face once or twice a day with a gentle cleanser.
  • Use sunblock, makeup, and other skin care products that are labeled "non-comedogenic" or "non-acnegenic." They won't promote acne.
  • Don't pop or pick at your blemishes.
  • If your hair is oily, wash it often and keep it off of your face. Keep hair gels and sprays away from your face.

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