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: 

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Upper arms
  • Shoulders 

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I prevent acne?

     You may be able to prevent acne breakouts by:

    • Keeping your skin clean
    • Shampooing your hair regularly
    • Using non-comedogenic sunscreens, moisturizers, and makeup
    • Bathing/showering after activity that makes you sweat

    If these steps don’t help you prevent breakouts, talk to your doctor about what treatment options are available.

  • How can I get rid of acne scars?

    Laser resurfacing or dermal filler works for some acne scars. For deeper ice pick scars, options are:

    • Punch excision: The scar is cut out, and the opening is stitched or glued shut. The resulting scar is smaller and level with the surrounding skin, so it’s less noticeable.
    • Punch grafting: For deeper scars, the scar is cut out and skin is grafted to make it level with the surrounding skin.
  • Is acne genetic?

    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:

    • Hormonal fluctuations
    • Stress
    • Wearing makeup

    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.

  • How long does acne last?

    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.

Key Terms

Page Sources
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  1. 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.

Additional Reading
  • 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.