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Acne

Facts about the most common skin disease

Acne is the most common skin disease and is not a serious health threat. It can cause scars, however. Although anyone at any age can have acne, it’s most common among teenagers and young adults.

What Is acne?

Specifically it is a disease that affects the skin’s oil glands. Your skin’s pores are connected to the glands by a canal called a follicle. Inside the follicles, oil carries dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. A thin hair also grows through the follicle and out to the skin.

Sometimes the hair, oil, and skin cells clump together into a plug that causes bacteria to grow. The bacteria in the plug cause swelling. A pimple begins to grow when the plug starts to break down.

Most pimples are found on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders.

There are many types of pimples. The most common types are:

  • Whiteheads, which stay under the surface of the skin
  • Blackheads, rise to the skin’s surface and look black
  • Papules, which are small pink bumps that can be tender
  • Pustules, which are red at the bottom and have puss on top
  • Nodules, which are large, painful, solid pimples that are deep in the skin
  • Cysts, which are deep, painful, and puss-filled, can cause scars

What causes acne?

There are many prevalent myths about what causes acne. For example, dirty skin and stress do not. The exact cause of acne is unknown, but according to physicians, there are some possible factors:

  • Hormone increase in teenage years
  • Hormone changes during pregnancy
  • Starting or stopping birth control pills
  • Heredity
  • Some types of medicine
  • Greasy makeup

Caring for your skin

Here are some ways to care for skin if you have acne:

  • Clean skin gently, using a mild cleanser in the morning, evening, and after heavy workouts.
  • Shave carefully, lightly and only when you have to. Try both electric and safety razors to see which works best for you. It helps to soften your beard with soap and water before putting on shaving cream.
  • Stay out of the sun if you are currently using an acne medication as they can make your skin more likely to sunburn.
  • Use oil-free makeup. Look for the word “noncomedogenic” on the label. This means that the makeup will not clog up your pores.
  • Shampoo your hair regularly. If your hair is oily, you may want to shampoo daily.

What things can make acne worse?

  • Changing hormone levels in teenage girls and adult women 2 to 7 days before their period starts
  • Pressure from bike helmets, backpacks or tight collars
  • Pollution and high humidity
  • Squeezing or picking at pimples

Treatment

Early treatment is the best way to prevent scars. Acne is treated by doctors, called dermatologists, who work with skin problems. Whether it is over-the-counter, prescription, a pill or a topical, your dermatologist will determine which medicine—or combination of medicine— is best for you.