Casey Gallagher, MD, is board-certified in dermatology. He is a clinical professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, and co-founder and practicing dermatologist at the Boulder Valley Center for Dermatology in Colorado. His research has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Acne is a common skin problem that develops when your pores get clogged by oil and dead skin debris. This results in pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads, especially on the:
Acne is the most frequent skin problem in the United States, especially in teenagers and young adults. Several forms exist.
Acne varies in development from very mild to extremely severe. You may only have a few blemishes here and there, or a more extensive breakout. It’s caused by overactive glands, skin that doesn’t shed cells effectively, and higher levels of a particular bacterium in the pores.
Treatment of acne has improved, with multiple over-the-counter and prescription treatments now available.
You may be able to prevent acne breakouts by:
If these steps don’t help you prevent breakouts, talk to your doctor about what treatment options are available.
Laser resurfacing or dermal filler works for some acne scars. For deeper ice pick scars, options are:
Not entirely, but it’s believed to have a genetic component. If either of your parents had acne, you’re more likely to have it. However, several other factors contribute to your overall risk, including:
Taking good care of your skin, and especially keeping it from becoming oily, can help you avoid acne breakouts, even if you’re genetically predisposed.
There’s no way to say when your acne will go away, but in general, teenage acne tends to diminish with age and go away by the time you’re about 20. You don’t just have to deal with it for the rest of your teen years, though. If good skin hygiene and over-the-counter treatments don’t help, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.
Benzoyl peroxide is a topical medication that comes in many forms, including cleansers, gels, lotions, and solutions that are similar to toners. Both over-the-counter and stronger prescription formulations are available. These products are often used to treat acne.
A cyst is an enclosed pocket of tissue that often contains pus or other fluids. Cystic acne is the most severe form of the common skin disease, involving deep, inflamed blemishes on the face or elsewhere on the body. Acne cysts are painful and feel like soft lumps just under the surface of your skin. This form of acne is generally treated with systemic prescription medications.
A follicle is a small hole or cavity. You have many types in your body, but you’ve probably heard the most about hair follicles, which are made up of cells and connective tissues. A follicle surrounds the root of each hair on your body. Clogged follicles, especially along the hairline, can contribute to acne.
Skin disease is an umbrella term for conditions that involve irritated, inflamed skin or clogged pores. They can include:
When skin diseases affect your appearance, they can be emotionally difficult to deal with. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any skin symptoms that cause physical or emotional distress.
Zeichner JA, Baldwin HE, Cook-Bolden FE, Eichenfield LF, Fallon-Friedlander S, Rodriguez DA. Emerging issues in adult female acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(1):37-46.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. How long does acne last?
National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Skin Conditions. MedlinePlus. Updated December 15, 2020.