Acne is a very common skin problem that shows up as outbreaks of bumps often referred to as pimples or zits. This usually appears on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Acne can be a source of emotional distress, and severe cases can lead to permanent acne scars. Anyone can have acne, but teenagers are most prone because of the surging adolescent hormone levels. Women may get acne when their hormone levels change during pregnancy, just before a menstrual cycle or when starting birth control pills.
Acne begins when the pores in the skin become clogged and can no longer drain sebum (an oil made by the sebaceous glands that protects and moisturizes the skin.) The sebum build-up causes the surrounding hair follicle to swell. The plugged pores form blackheads and whiteheads, pimples and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules).
- Control of acne is an ongoing process. Keep skin clean, wash your face with a mild cleanser twice a day. Avoid harsh astringents and hard scrubbing of the skin. Don't squeeze or pick at blemishes. Limit sun exposure and use an oil-free sunscreen, such as a gel or light lotion. Choose skin care products and cosmetics labeled "non-comedogenic" (does not promote acne).
- Almost all cases of acne can be effectively treated. The goal of acne treatment is to heal existing lesions, stop new lesions from forming, and prevent acne scars. Medications vary, depending on the type of acne you have. Mild acne may respond well to a topical retinoid alone. Moderate acne may respond better to a combination of a topical retinoid with an antibiotic or other medication. Severe acne with scarring may need treatment with isotretinoin, the active ingredient of Accutane. Chemical peels, slushes and laser treatments can also help clear up acne.