Awww! Acne! What is it? What can I do?


Acne vulgaris

Acne vulgaris (Photo credit: Adams999)


Acne:  What is it?


Acne is a skin condition that causes whiteheads (closed comedones), blackheads (open comdones), papules, pustules and  inflammed skin, such as cysts.


Acne occurs when pores become clogged. Pores are minute openings of the skin. Each pore opens to a follicle. A follicle contains a hair and an oil gland. The oil released by the gland helps remove old skin cells and keeps your skin soft. When glands produce too much oil, the pores can become congested with dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cell build up. The blockage is called a plug or comedone. If the congested pore is white, it is called a closed comedone or commonly known as a whitehead. If it is dark, it is called an open comedone or commonly known as a blackhead.  Acne that is deep in your skin can cause hard, painful cysts. This is called cystic acne.  See chart for Grades of Acne

Have Acne?  You’re Not Alone!!!

Acne is most common in teenagers, pregnant, menstruating, and menopausal women, but anyone can get acne, even babies. Three out of four teenagers have some acne. Hormonal changes may cause the skin to be more oily.  It commonly appears on the face, back, chest and shoulders, but it may also occur on the arms, legs, and buttocks.  It can run in families.

Types of Acne
0 – Mild congested pores a few open & closed comedones non-inflammatory rarely have pustules or papules, nodules, or cysts Esthetician & or Doctor
I – Mild occasional breakouts mostly open & closed comedones usually inflammatory a few papules or pustules Esthetician & or Doctor
II – Moderate always breaking out in a particular area(s) some open & closed comedones mostly inflammatory mostly papules or pustules Esthetician & or Doctor
III – Severe always breaking out all over your face some open & closed comedones inflammatory mostly papules or pustules a few cysts Esthetician  & or Doctor
IV – Severe – Nodulocystic cystic acne some open & closed comedones inflammatory, infection some

papules or pustules

cysts, some nodules Doctor

Causes of Acne:

  • Hormonal changes:
  1. puberty
  2. menopause
  3. menstrual periods
  4. pregnancy
  5. birth control pills
  6. stress
  • Greasy or oily cosmetic and hair products (even some body products, such as hand cream)
  • Certain drugs (such as steroids, testosterone, estrogen, and phenytoin)
  • High levels of humidity
  • Sweating
  • Yeast

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:  Research does not show that chocolate, nuts, and greasy foods cause acne. However, diets high in refined sugars may be related to acne.





At Home

Steps you can take to help your acne:

  • Clean your skin gently with a mild, nondrying cleanser (no bar soaps) made for your skin type. Remove makeup with a makeup remove before using a cleanser. Wash twice a day, including after exercising or after excessive sweating. However, avoid scrubbing or repeated skin washing with acne treat your skin gently.  Scrubbing or harsh exfoliants can open up, infect and spread your acne.
  • Shampoo your hair daily with a gentle shampoo, especially if it is oily. Comb or pull your hair back to keep the hair out of your face, even when sleeping.

What NOT to do:

  • Try not to squeeze, scratch, pick, or rub the pimples. Although it might be tempting to do this, it can lead to skin infections and scarring.  Go to a Dermatologist or Esthetician for extractions.
  • Avoid wearing tight headbands, baseball caps, and other hats.  Dirt, oil, and bacteria accumulate on these items.
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands or fingers. Wash your hands immediately after eating or any other dirty activity.
  • Avoid greasy cosmetics or creams, look for oil-free, water based, and non-comedogenic products (they have been tested and proven not to clog pores.)
  • Take off your makeup, never sleep with it on.

If these steps do not clear up the blemishes, try over-the-counter acne medications. You apply these to skin:  topical benzoyl peroxide, zinc, sulfur, retinol (vitamin A), or salicylic acid.  They work by killing bacteria, drying up skin oils, causing cell turn over, and by promoting sloughing of dead skin cells.  Some side effects are:  redness, peeling of the skin, a tendency to burn quicker when exposed to the sun and on rare occasions an allergic reaction.

A doctor can prescribe stronger prescription strength medications and discuss other treatment options with you.  Some side effects are a tendency to burn quicker when exposed to the sun, stinging, burning, redness, peeling, and on rare occasions an allergic reaction.

Antibiotics may help some people with acne:

  • Oral antibiotics (taken by mouth) such as tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, erythromycin, trimethoprim, and amoxicillin

For moderate to severe acne, you may need an oral antibiotics to reduce bacteria and fight inflammation. Topical medications and oral antibiotics together may also be used. Antibiotics may cause side effects, such as an upset stomach, dizziness or skin discoloration. These drugs also increase your skin’s sun sensitivity and may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.


  • Topical antibiotics (applied to the skin) such as clindamycin, erythromycin, or dapsone

Topical antibiotics work by killing skin bacteria.

Creams or gels applied to the skin may be prescribed:

  • Retinoic acid cream or gel [ vitamin A or Rentinols (Tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A, others), adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac, Avage)]

They work by promoting cell turnover and preventing clogging the hair follicles.
Use with sunscreen during the day!

  • Prescription formulas of benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid
  • Topical azelaic acid

Use with sunscreen during the day!

For women whose acne is caused or made worse by hormones:

  • A pill called spironolactone may help
  • Birth control pills may help in some cases

Oral contraceptives (Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Previfem, others), can improve acne in women. However, oral contraceptives may cause other side effects, such as headaches, breast tenderness, nausea and depression. The most serious potential complication is a slightly increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and blood clots.

Minor procedures or treatments may also be helpful:

  • A laser procedure called photodynamic therapy
  • Light Therapy
Laser- and light-based therapies reach the deeper layers of skin without harming the skin’s surface. Laser treatment is thought to damage the oil (sebaceous) glands, causing them to produce less oil.   The treatment may be uncomfortable and may cause temporary skin problems that mimic a severe sunburn.  Light therapy targets the bacteria that cause acne inflammation. These treatments can also improve skin texture and lessen the appearance of scars.
  • Your Doctor or Esthetician may also suggest chemical skin peeling, microdermabrasion (for mild acne), removal of scars by dermabrasion or laser, or removal, drainage, or injection of cysts with cortisone


Call your Doctor or a Dermatologist if:

  • At home treatments and haven’t helped after several months
  • Your acne is severe, see chart
  • Your acne is getting worse
  • You develop scars as your acne clears up


While I’ve attempted to use credible sources for information, this is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. If there is a disparity between the information presented within this blog and the advice given by your medical professional, please follow the medical professional’s advice as he/she will know you and your medical circumstances.

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