May 18, 2024

What is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that causes pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts. It typically shows up on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders during puberty due to hormonal changes. Most people find their acne clears up by their early twenties.

What Causes Acne?

Acne develops when hair follicles (pores) get clogged with excess oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. Bacteria can then get trapped inside the clogged pores, causing inflammation and blemishes.

Here’s a breakdown of different types of acne:

  • Whiteheads: Clogged pores that stay closed
  • Blackheads: Clogged pores that remain open, appearing dark due to surface sebum
  • Pimples: Small red bumps caused by clogged pores and bacteria
  • Cysts: Large, painful bumps deep within the skin

Can I Prevent Acne?

While not always possible, here are some tips to help manage acne breakouts:

  • Wash your face gently: Use lukewarm water and a mild cleanser twice a day. Avoid harsh scrubbing, which can irritate the skin.
  • Choose oil-free products: Look for “noncomedogenic” or “nonacnegenic” labels on makeup and sunscreen to avoid clogged pores.
  • Minimize contact with pore-cloggers: Keep hairspray, gels, and oil (from work or exercise) away from your face. Wash your face after sweating.
  • Explore over-the-counter treatments: Lotions and creams with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help prevent and treat acne. Follow the directions carefully and test for allergies.
  • Diet might play a role: Some people find certain foods worsen their acne. Experiment to see if any foods trigger breakouts.
  • Skip the sun tanning: While a tan may temporarily hide acne, it doesn’t treat it and can worsen breakouts for some.

What If My Acne Persists?

Even with proper hygiene and over-the-counter treatments, acne can persist. This is common, especially for hormonal breakouts around periods (premenstrual acne).

A dermatologist (skin doctor) can offer prescription medications to address your specific needs. This might include:

  • Prescription creams to prevent pimples
  • Antibiotics to target bacteria
  • Isotretinoin for severe acne
  • Birth control pills for some women

Resist the Urge to Pick!

It’s tempting to pop pimples, but resist! Picking or squeezing can worsen inflammation, spread bacteria, and potentially leave scars.

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