Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. Acne most commonly appears on your face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. Acne can be distressing and annoyingly persistent. Acne lesions heal slowly, and when one begins to resolve, others seem to crop up.
Acne typically appears on your face, neck, chest, back and shoulders, which are the areas of your skin with the largest number of functional oil glands. Acne can take the following forms:
1. Noninflammatory lesions
Comedones (whiteheads and blackheads) are created when the openings of hair follicles become clogged and blocked with oil secretions, dead skin cells and sometimes bacteria.
2. Inflammatory lesions
Papules are small raised bumps that signal inflammation or infection in the hair follicles. Papules may be red and tender.
Pustules (pimples) are red, tender bumps with white pus at their tips.
Nodules are large, solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin. They’re formed by the buildup of secretions deep within hair follicles.
Cysts are painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the surface of the skin. These boil-like infections can cause scars.
Three factors contribute to the formation of acne:
Overproduction of oil (sebum)
Irregular shedding of dead skin cells resulting in irritation of the hair follicles of your skin
Buildup of bacteria
Contrary to what some people think, these factors have little effect on acne:
Greasy foods and chocolate have proved to have little to no effect on the development or course of acne.
Dirty skin. Acne isn’t caused by dirt. In fact, scrubbing the skin too hard or cleansing with harsh soaps or chemicals irritates the skin and can make acne worse. Simple cleansing of the skin to remove excess oil and dead skin cells is all that’s required
Types of acne treatments include:
Over-the-counter topical treatments. Acne lotions may dry up the oil, kill bacteria and promote sloughing of dead skin cells. Over-the-counter (OTC) lotions are generally mild and contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, salicylic acid or sulfur as their active ingredient.
Topical treatments available by prescription. If your acne doesn’t respond to OTC treatments, consider seeing a doctor or dermatologist to get a stronger prescription lotion. Tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A, others), adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac, Avage) are examples of topical prescription products derived from vitamin A.
Antibiotics. For moderate to severe acne, you may need a short course of prescription oral antibiotics to reduce bacteria and fight inflammation.
You can prevent new acne breakouts with self-care measures, such as washing your skin with a gentle cleanser and avoiding touching or picking at the problem areas. Other acne-prevention tips include:
Wash acne-prone areas only twice a day. Washing removes excess oil and dead skin cells. But too much washing can irritate the skin. Wash areas with a gentle cleanser and use oil-free, water-based skin care products.
Use an over-the-counter acne cream or gel to help dry excess oil. Look for products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid as the active ingredient.
Avoid heavy foundation makeup. Choose powder cosmetics over cream products because they’re less irritating.
Remove makeup before going to bed. Going to sleep with cosmetics on your skin can clog tiny openings of the hair follicles (pores). Also, be sure to throw out old makeup and clean your cosmetic brushes and applicators regularly with soapy water.
Wear loosefitting clothing. Tightfitting clothing traps heat and moisture and can irritate your skin. Also, whenever possible, avoid tightfitting straps, backpacks, helmets or sports equipment to prevent friction against your skin.
Shower after exercising or doing strenuous work. Oil and sweat on your skin can trap dirt and bacteria