Acne is a skin condition characterized by an outbreak of raised, red bumps on the body, commonly referred to as “pimples” or “zits.” It can impact various parts of the body, but it is common (and often causes the most distress) when present on the face. Its severity can vary from just a few pimples to widespread patches of them in an area. It can affect people of all ages, genders and ethnicities, but it is commonly associated with adolescents.
Acne is usually not a serious condition, but it does cause emotional distress to people of all ages. Severe acne outbreaks can lead to permanent scarring.
Experts believe that acne is primarily caused by elevated levels of hormones called androgens. The levels rise in both boys and girls during puberty, which is why acne is common in adolescents. Hormonal levels can also change in women throughout their menstrual cycle, during pregnancy or while starting and stopping birth control pills. These factors can also lead to acne outbreaks.
Heredity is also a factor in the development of acne. If your parents have it, there’s a good chance that you could develop it, too. Other factors such as medication, cosmetics, tight-fitting clothes or environmental irritants can contribute to the development of acne.
For mild cases of acne, over-the-counter creams, gels, lotions, pads and soaps might be helpful for alleviating the symptoms. In more severe cases, it’s probably best to consult with a dermatologist. A variety of topical and oral medications can be prescribed to help with severe cases of acne.
Regular face washings using a gentle, alcohol-free cleaner and lukewarm water are a good step in preventing acne. Do not aggressively scrub the face as this can irritate the skin. It’s also important to avoid touching the face and avoid the temptation to pop pimples, as this further irritates the skin and can contribute to scarring.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; American Academy of Dermatology
Acne patients at higher risk for depression, study finds.
Distinguishing between different forms
Here's what you can do
Germ community, rather than just one species, may be key, new research suggests
Study suggests diet, stress and family history may play a role
Bacteria on skin sometimes release fatty acids that trigger inflammation, researchers report
Twins study finds white blood cells of sibling with acne seem to age less rapidly
Potential negatives of withholding treatment
Among people 12 and older
Differin Gel 0.1% is first retinoid medication approved for over-the-counter use
To help protect against an allergic reaction
Accutane raises risk of birth defects, but many women taking it don't follow guidelines to avoid pregnancy, study finds
Skin condition isn't caused by poor hygiene or diet, dermatologist says
But dermatologist recommends using only the mildest effective ones
Skin doctors say combining two or more medications is often the best option
Including poor self-esteem
Prescription Accutane can often help and should be tried sooner, experts say
Results show how misunderstood the conditions are, researchers say
Researchers test slow-release nanoparticles on frustrating skin condition
Study finds excess B12 tied to common skin condition
Cost, forgetfulness, skin improvement were reasons cited for lapses
Effective birth control key in using the medication, which is linked to birth defects
Teen developed blood disorder after using Aczone for a week
Treat skin well
Small study found it improved skin with shorter recovery time than seen with another type of laser
Wash skin twice daily
In rare instances, reactions are potentially life-threatening, agency says
Topical applications plus antibiotics often succeed, experts say
Suggestions to help keep it clear
These things may cause skin problems
Don't expect medication to work immediately
New guidelines released to help doctors treat younger patients age-appropriately
Experts note many medications now available for range of cases
Study suggests two types of microbe may lead to acne, while third helps keep skin clear
New data involving 45,000 women may settle the question, experts say