Everything that You Should Know About Acne

Woman With Acne
Adult acne: The number of adults who have acne is growing.

Acne is one of the most prevalent skin conditions in the United States, if not the entire world, and yet it can be very difficult to find accurate information about it.

If you are interested in learning more about acne, and how to treat it, this site should provide you with all of the information that you need.

Why Should You Treat Acne

A lot of people believe that actively trying to prevent or treat acne is undesirable and that you should just let it fix itself over time.

This approach is not advised by most dermatologists who know that sometimes acne has to be treated because:

Acne scars and dark spots can appear on your skin even after the acne clears if left untreated.

There are psychological benefits associated with reduced acne such as improved self-esteem.

Many treatments have been developed that are quite effective.

Acne is Increasing Amongst Women

Teenagers getting acne is a common stereotype, but nowadays an increasing number of much older women, ranging in age from 30s to even after 50s are suffering from it. It’s not fully understood why this is, but most dermatologists understand the severity of this issue.

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

Signs and Symptoms of Acne

What is Acne?

Acne does not just refer to pimples, the following blemishes are all also considered acne:

  • Pustules/Pimples
  • Papules
  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Nodules
  • Cysts

Acne does not only appear on the face and forehead, it can also appear on the chest, back, shoulders, neck, buttocks and upper arms.

Acne symptoms

Often times acne causes a lot more indirect harm to an individual than just a deterioration of their physical appearance. The following symptoms are especially common:

Permanent Scars

Scaring occurs usually occurs after acne clears, and it is the most common amongst people who’ve gotten cysts and nodules. Scars are entirely preventable, however, through obtaining treatment from a dermatologist.

It’s important to visit a dermatologist as early as possible if you suffer from nodules and cysts especially if you are between eight and twelve years of age. Failure to properly treat acne early carries a serious risk of scarring.

Dark Spots

Dark spots are a common problem after acne has healed, and it can take a very long time for them to heal, between several months to years in fact.

Reduced Self-Esteem

Acne has a tendency to greatly diminish people’s self-esteemed because it makes them insecure about their image. People who suffer from acne often feel that they cannot socialize, and do not want to participate in social activities whether related to work or school.


Depression is a serious medical condition, and many people suffer badly from depression when they have bad acne. In extreme cases many teens and young adults even consider suicide.

What Causes Acne and Who Gets It?

Who Can Get Acne?

If you have a bad case of acne, you may feel like you are the only one. But many people have acne. It is the most common skin problem in the United States. About 40 to 50 million Americans have acne at any one time.

Most people who have acne are teenagers or young adults, but acne can occur at any age. Newborn babies can get acne. Men and women get acne. Some women get acne when they reach middle age.

What is the Cause of Acne?

Essentially acne is what happens when a pore on your skin gets clogged by dead skin cells. Dead skin cells rise to the surface of your skin pores and your body sheds them off. But when your body produces an excess of oil, sebum, that prevents dry skin, the dead skin cells get stuck inside a pore.

At the time, as species of bacteria that inhabit our skin, p. acnes, also enter these clogged skin pores. Once inside, they begin to multiply rapidly which leads to an inflammation of the pre resulting in it becoming red and swollen. This results in a cyst or nodule developing if the inflammation penetrates deeper into our skin.

How Can We Diagnose and Treat Acne?


Dermatologists will begin by first examining your skin by checking for conditions that indicate acne. In the event that you have it, they will:

  • Grade your level of acne with a grade of 1 being mild while 4 is severe.
  • Note down the types of acne that have appeared on your skin.


There are multiple acne-related treatments available today, although not each treatment is applicable for every case. You can, however, get treatment for nearly every type of acne.

For instance, people with mild acne will typically only have a few blemishes such as a few whiteheads, pustules/ pimples and blackheads. Mild acne can be treated with products that can be obtained without needing a prescription. Such anti-acne products usually contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide which are effective in clearing the skin, but they are not effective overnight.

Acne treatment can take between four and eight weeks to be effective and bring visual improvement. It is also necessary to continue treatment even after the acne has cleared to prevent future breakouts.

When Should I visit a Dermatologist?

If your acne is aggressive, you may require medication that cannot be obtained without a prescription. In this case, you should visit a dermatologist immediately.

These are the types of treatment that dermatologists offer:

Tropical treatment

This involves applying anti-acne products directly to your skin. Most of these products work by killing the bacteria in your pores, but some also focus on reducing the oil that your body produces. Many tropical medicines will contain salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics and retinoids. Dermatologists are responsible for determining which type of tropical product is appropriate for you.

Stronger medication

For more severe types of acne which usually includes when people have red, swollen pimples, it may be necessary to use stronger types of medication that affect the whole body.

The following medication could be prescribed for instance:  Antibiotics for killing bacteria and reducing inflammation.

Birth control pills that affect hormones

Isotretinoin: this is the only type of treatment that is effective on all types of acne.

Acne Reduction Procedures

Dermatologists can also perform several different procedures for reducing your acne in regular office visits which can include the following:

Acne Removal

If you have cysts that resist the effects of medication, a dermatologist can perform what is known as “drainage and extraction” to remove the cyst. It can assist in remedying any pain associated with a cyst along with preventing scar formation.

Light Therapies

Dermatologists have access to devices that can reduce the concentration of bacteria in your skin. Dermatologists have to assess whether this treatment would be effective for you first though.

Chemical Peels

Blackheads and Papules can be removed using chemical peels that dermatologists have access to.


Acne treatment is often preferable to simply hoping that your acne will clear out over time. Treatment can help you reduce the chances of suffering from permanent acne scars as well as the psychological problems associated with acne i.e depression, reduced self-esteem and anxiety.

Acne treatment should also be continued after your skin has cleared so that any future breakouts of it can also be prevented. Only a trained dermatologist has the authority to inform you when you should stop treating your acne.

Tips for Acne Management

Acne can be reduced by following these pieces of advice:

  • Bathe frequently and wash your skin after engaging in any activity that results in perspiration.
  • Gently apply non-abrasive cleansers using only your fingertips and gentle products that do not irritate your skin such as a washcloth.
  • Remove the use of any products that can irritate your skin, especially those that contain alcohol. Try to avoid products such as exfoliants, toners and astringents. Irritated skin will further exacerbate your acne problems.
  • Do not scrub your skin since that can cause your acne to become worse.
  • Use lukewarm water to rinse your skin.
  • Shampoo frequently. If you have oily hair, you should shampoo daily.
  • Avoid picking at, popping or touching your acne. Instead, allow your skin to heal itself naturally. Picking at your acne increases the chance that you will develop acne scars.
  • Avoid touching your face unnecessarily since it can cause flareups during the day.Avoid excessive sunlight exposure and do not use tanning beds.
  • Tanning beds will damage your skin, and many forms of acne medication often lead to your skin becoming sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light which you can get exposed to from both the sun as well as tanning beds.
  • Tanning beds also increase your risk for melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, by up to 75 per cent.
  • Visit a dermatologist if you feel that your acne is affecting your mental, if the anti-acne products that you use are ineffective and if you’re suffering from scars and darkened skin.

Just about every case of acne can be successfully treated by dermatologists. Existing acne can be eliminated, future breakouts can be prevented and the chance of scar development can also be minimized. Consult a dermatologist immediately if you want if you have any acne-related problems.

Interested in acne treatments?

Call Downtown Dermatology at
212-233-2995 to book an appointment!

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