Acne is a condition affecting the sebaceous (oil) glands. It may consist of whiteheads (closed comedones) and blackheads (open comedones) or may be pustular, nodular, or cystic. The face, chest, and back are the typical areas involved. Acne occurs most frequently in the teenage years, but may affect children as young as eight and persist into adulthood.

Teen with Acne

Acne is common in the teenage years

Acne Frequently Asked Questions

Acne is caused by overactive oil glands secreting into a clogged pore. The tendency toward clogged pores is hereditary, may be due–albeit rarely–to the use of heavy creams on the face. At the time of adolescence, the oil glands normally become more active. In rare instances, a hormonal imbalance may cause over-secretion of oil in women.

Treatment for acne is targeted at opening the clogged pores, decreasing the secretion of oil into the follicle or decreasing the inflammation caused by the secretion of the oil into the clogged follicle. Acne treatments include topical and oral medications, that may, in extreme cases include Accutane. We are happy to offer chemical peels and extractions of clogged pores by our aestheticians as effective acne treatment options, too. Acne treatment should be early and aggressive in cases of nodulocystic lesions or scarring. The use of lasers for the treatment of acne is a developing field that we are following closely and may be offering in the future. A drawback of current laser treatments for acne is the need to repeat treatments frequently and the lack of persistence of clearing.

What is Acne?

Acne is the term for the blocked pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that can appear typically on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms. Seventeen million Americans currently have acne, making it the most common skin disease in the country.

Do only teenagers get acne?

While acne affects mostly teenagers, and almost all teenagers have some form of acne, adults of any age can have it.

Are men more likely to have acne than women?

Acne does not affect one gender more than the other. However, men are more likely to have severe acne and less likely to seek professional treatment, while women’s acne is typically caused by cosmetics or menstrual/hormonal changes.

Is acne dangerous?

Acne is not life-threatening, but it can cause physical disfigurement (scarring) and emotional distress.

What causes acne?

It is not yet known what causes acne, but suspected factors include an increase in androgens (male sex hormones) associated with puberty in both boys and girls, hormonal changes during pregnancy, or when starting or stopping the use of birth control pills. Heredity, certain drugs such as androgens and lithium, and the use of greasy cosmetics can also cause acne.

Chocolate, oily, and greasy foods can cause acne, right?

Wrong. What you eat does not have much of an affect on acne. Neither does dirt nor stress.

What are the different types of lesions/acne?

Young women examining her face

Young women examining her face

  • Comedo: A plugged sebaceous follicle
    • Open comedones are called blackheads because of the plugs’ black-colored surface.
    • Closed comedones are called whiteheads because of the skin-colored bumps they cause in the skin.
  • Papule: A small, inflamed, often pink lesion or bump, often tender to the touch. Groupings of small papules (microcomedones) may have a rough texture like sandpaper.
  • Pustule: Papules topped by pus-filled, dome-shaped, red lesions, often with a hair at the center. Left alone, healed pustules usually do not form scars.
  • Nodule: Similar in color and shape to pustules, nodules are large, painful, solid lesions lodged deep within the skin. They are often resistant to treatment and may form scars.
  • Cyst: Larger than a pustule, cysts are deep, painful, liquid (pus) filled lesions. They may cause scarring.

Can acne be treated?

Yes. Early intervention is best to minimize breakouts and scarring.

What are the different kinds of treatments?

Treatment varies depending on the type and severity of lesions, skin type and the patient’s age and life, but on average, results are visible in six-to-eight weeks. Options include:

  • Laser resurfacing
  • Soft tissue fillers and fat transfer
  • Punch excisional surgery for deep “ice-pick” pitted scarring
  • Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion

Patients with mild acne can supplement treatment at home by washing with warm water and a mild soap twice a day and/or using a topical over-the-counter acne medications.