Understanding Acne Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on May 17, 2021

What Are the Symptoms of Acne?

The symptoms of acne are:

  • Persistent, recurrent red spots or swelling on the skin, generally known as pimples; the swelling may become inflamed and fill with pus. They typically appear on the face, chest, shoulders, neck, or upper portion of the back.
  • Dark spots with open pores at the center (blackheads)
  • Tiny white bumps under the skin that have no obvious opening (whiteheads)
  • Red swellings or lumps (known as papules) that are visibly filled with pus
  • Nodules or lumps under the skin that are inflamed, fluid-filled, and often tender; these nodules may become as large as an inch across.

Call Your Doctor About Acne If:

  • Your acne makes you unhappy or uncomfortable
  • Your acne is producing scars
  • Acne is causing dark patches to appear
  • You have severe acne, which may produce nodules under the skin and persistent pimples; a dermatologist may recommend prescription drugs to control the condition and prevent permanent scars.
  • Your acne doesn't respond to over-the-counter remedies; you may need medical treatment.

Show Sources

American Academy of Dermatology.
The Merck Manual, Seventeenth Edition.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD).


© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info