All types of acne — blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts — develop when pores in our skin become clogged. No one knows exactly what causes acne. Hormone changes, such as those during the teenage years and pregnancy, probably play a role. There are many myths about what causes acne. Chocolate and greasy foods are often blamed, but there is little evidence that foods have much effect on acne in most people. Another common myth is that dirty skin causes acne; however, blackheads and pimples are not caused by dirt. Stress doesn’t cause acne, but stress can make it worse.
Most pimples form on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders. Anyone can get acne, but it is common in teenagers and young adults. It is not serious, but it can cause scars if the pimples are popped or scraped.
Mild acne consists of small lesions, such as blackheads, whiteheads or pustules, which appear at or near the surface of the skin. As such, mild cases of acne can sometimes be controlled at home by:
- Gently washing the affected area(s) with warm water and a mild soap twice a day to remove dead skin cells and excess oil
- Using a topical (applied to the skin) over-the-counter acne treatment containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
It covers a quarter to three-quarters of the face and/or other affected area(s) and usually requires the help of a dermatologist who may recommend two or more treatments which may include:
- Over-the-counter topical acne medications
- Prescription medicines that can include creams, oral antibiotics and oral contraceptives
Dermatologists recommend early treatment for moderate to moderately severe acne to avoid scars. Acne scars take two forms — as raised thickened tissue or as a depression, such as pits or pock marks.
Severe acne often appears as deep cysts, inflammation, extensive damage to the skin and scarring. It requires extensive treatment and should be treated by a dermatologist. Treatments include those used for moderate acne plus surgical drainage as needed and drug therapies that are reserved for severe acne.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology
Last updated: 6/21/2010