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By far the most common skin condition in the country, acne affects about 50 million American adults and children every year. Acne causes blocked pores, whiteheads, blackheads, inflammation, pimples, cysts and other lesions on the skin of the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms.

Image of young girl with facial acne

1. Acne can cause significant physical and psychological harm

Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, pimples as well as deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that occur most commonly on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms as well as on the scalp and legs. Acne usually begins in puberty and affects many adolescents and young adults but can occur in adults over the age of 25 as well.

Not only is acne painful, causing physical discomfort, it often times presents itself in visible areas. It can cause poor self-image, depression and anxiety, particularly among adolescents. Adults are generally not expected to have acne, and it can damage one's professional image and self-esteem. If left untreated or not treated properly by a board-certified dermatologist, acne can cause permanent scarring and long-term physical skin damage.

Girl examining facial acne in mirror
Teenage Acne Can Be Psychologically Debilitating

2. Acne affects people of all ages and all skin types

Approximately 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne. Acne can occur at any stage of life and may continue into one’s 30s and 40s. According to recent studies, adult acne is increasing, particularly among women, affecting up to 1 in 3 individuals. However, the nature of adult acne is different than in teen acne. It is deeper in the skin and often tends to present itself around the jawline. Unhealthy diets, lack of sleep, and increased stress faced by adults in modern life impact hormone levels, driving up oil secretions, clogging pores, increasing bacterial growth, which contributes to more acne, creating even more stress and anxiety. The vicious cycle is complete.

Woman with acne looking concerned in the mirror
Adult Acne Is On The Rise

3. Acne can be caused by a variety of factors

Acne is caused due to clogging up of pores or hair follicles from excessive secretions due to overactive oil (sebaceous) glands. This clogging leads to festering of skin lesions, bacterial growth, inflammation and presents in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, nodules, pimples, inflamed red skin or cysts filled with pus.

Infographic showing Acne Formation Process
Acne Formation Process
Illustration of cross section of various types of acne
Cross section of various types of acne

Illustration showing appearance of various types of acne
Appearance of various types of acne

Common culprits causing acne or worsening it include:

  • Heredity/genetics

  • Hormones

  • Menstruation

  • Emotional stress

  • Medications

  • Foods with high glycemic index

4. There are a variety of treatment options available for acne

Acne treatments vary depending on the type and severity of lesions, and the patient's skin type, age and lifestyle. Your dermatologist can provide an in-depth consultation taking into account these factors and decide on a course of treatment suitable for you. Treatment options can include over the counter medication, prescription topical creams or ointments, and prescription oral antibiotics. To remove acne scarring, cosmetic treatments such as microdermabrasion may be recommended.

Non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic, and oil-free cosmetics, toiletries, and sunscreens are recommended. Astringents, toners and exfoliants which unnecessarily irritate the skin are discouraged.

Finally, changes in diet and lifestyle as well as healthy skincare routines such as washing of affected areas twice a day with a mild, nondrying cleanser are also recommended. Aggravating behaviors such as popping, squeezing or picking at acne are strongly discouraged as they can lead to additional infections.

5. Acne treatment requires time

Once you begin your dermatologist recommended acne treatment program, allow enough time for it to take effect (about six to eight weeks). Resolution of acne takes time. There are no overnight or immediate cures. When your skin clears, treatment should continue in order to prevent new breakouts. Your dermatologist can tell you when to stop treatment.

6. Cosmetic treatments can restore appearance

Permanent scarring, particularly of the face, due to untreated or improperly treated acne can be anxiety-inducing. To reduce this risk, it is advised to seek treatment at early stages when severe acne does not respond to over the counter medication. Fortunately, microdermabrasion therapy can reduce or remove scarring for most patients. During microdermabrasion, the dermatologist will carefully smooth away the scarred areas. After a microdermabrasion treatment, you may see mild inflammation. This generally disappears in a few hours. Sometimes, the patients can also have flaky skin for three or four days. Patients are delighted at the dramatic improvement after a couple of sessions.

Woman with acne scars on face
Acne Scarring On Face

Woman undergoing microneedling treatment for acne
Microneedling Treatment For Acne Scarring

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