Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It causes whiteheads, blackheads or pimples. Acne is most common among teenagers, though it affects people of all ages.
Effective acne treatments are available, but acne can be persistent. The pimples and bumps heal slowly, and when one begins to go away, others seem to crop up.
Depending on its severity, acne can cause emotional distress and scar the skin. The earlier you start treatment, the lower your risk of such problems.
Acne signs vary depending on the severity of your condition:
Whiteheads (closed plugged pores)
Blackheads (open plugged pores)
Small red, tender bumps (papules)
Pimples (pustules), which are papules with pus at their tips
Large, solid, painful lumps under the skin (nodules)
Painful, pus-filled lumps under the skin (cystic lesions)
Acne usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders.
Four main factors cause acne:
Excess oil (sebum) production
Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells
Acne typically appears on your face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders because these areas of skin have the most oil (sebaceous) glands. Hair follicles are connected to oil glands.
The follicle wall may bulge and produce a whitehead. Or the plug may be open to the surface and darken, causing a blackhead. A blackhead may look like dirt stuck in pores. But actually the pore is congested with bacteria and oil, which turns brown when it's exposed to the air.
Pimples are raised red spots with a white center that develop when blocked hair follicles become inflamed or infected with bacteria. Blockages and inflammation deep inside hair follicles produce cystlike lumps beneath the surface of your skin. Other pores in your skin, which are the openings of the sweat glands, aren't usually involved in acne.
Certain things may trigger or worsen acne:
Hormonal changes. Androgens are hormones that increase in boys and girls during puberty and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Hormone changes during midlife, particularly in women, can lead to breakouts too.
Certain medications. Examples include drugs containing corticosteroids, testosterone or lithium.
Diet. Studies indicate that consuming certain foods — including carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bread, bagels and chips — may worsen acne. Further study is needed to examine whether people with acne would benefit from following specific dietary restrictions.
Stress. Stress doesn't cause acne, but if you have acne already, stress may make it worse.
How acne develops
Acne develops when sebum — an oily substance that lubricates your hair and skin — and dead skin cells plug hair follicles. Bacteria can trigger inflammation and infection resulting in more severe acne.
People with darker skin types are more likely than are people with lighter skin to experience these acne complications:
Scars. Pitted skin (acne scars) and thick scars (keloids) can remain long-term after acne has healed.
Skin changes. After acne has cleared, the affected skin may be darker (hyperpigmented) or lighter (hypopigmented) than before the condition occurred.
For some people, the following treatments are helpful, either alone or in combination with topical creams
The redness and swelling that can occur with acne is caused by a type of bacteria that can be killed by exposing your skin to different types of light. Before the procedure, your esthetician might apply a product to your skin to make it more sensitive to light (photosensitizers). You might need to visit our office for multiple treatments.
Your treatments may use blue light, red light or a combination. More study is needed to determine the best methods for treating acne with light.
Acne bacteria can also be killed with pulsed light and heat energy. These treatments may also shrink oil (sebaceous) glands, which decreases oil production
Chemical peels might mildly improve the appearance of skin for people with mild acne. This procedure has traditionally been used to lessen the appearance of fine lines, sun damage and minor facial scars.
Chemical peels that we use aren't available over-the-counter. During a chemical peel, your esthetician applies a mild chemical solution to your skin. This solution helps unclog pores and remove dead skin cells, whiteheads and blackheads. A chemical peel can also generate new skin growth. You'll likely need multiple treatments for best results.
You’ve probably heard of the benefits of retinoid creams for antiaging, but these forms of vitamin are also efficient at clearing up acne. Retinoids cause skin cells to turn over at a faster rate, decrease oil production, and help skin exfoliate. Another benefit: Acne is inflammation, and retinoids are anti-inflammatory.