If you have acne, also called acne vulgaris, you are not alone. It is the most common skin condition. Most teens and young adults suffer from this condition but it can occur at any age. Newborns have acne, even menopausal women have acne.
At any age, virtually everyone with acne can have clearer skin. In recent years, medical advances have been made including new acne treatments and using well-known treatments differently to get better results.

What is Acne?

Many people think that acne is just “pimples”. If you have acne you can have any of these blemishes:

  • Blackheads (called open comedones)
  • Whiteheads (called closed comedones)
  • Papules (red bumps)
  • Pustules (red bumps with white centers, what many people call “pimples”)
  • Cysts
  • Nodules

Acne can appear on the face, back, chest, neck, shoulders and upper arms.

What causes acne?

Acne first appears when a pore in the skin blocks. This clog begins with dead skin cells.
Normally dead skin cells are shed from the surface of the skin every day. Normal skin also produces sebum, which is an important oil that keeps our skin from drying. When sebum production is increased during certain phases of life, the excess oil can cause dead skin cells to stick together inside the pore. Instead of being shed, the cells become trapped inside the pore.
One type of bacteria that lives on everyone’s skin is named P. acnes. Inside the pores, the bacteria have a perfect environment for multiplying very quickly, especially if there is a lot of oil in the pores. When hormones change at puberty, oil production increases in the skin. The combination of bacteria and oil in the pores is very irritating to the surrounding skin so the pore becomes inflamed (red and swollen). Sometimes the inflammation can damage the lining of the pore and then the inflammation goes deep into the skin, causing an acne cyst or nodule to appear.

What are the benefits of acne treatment?

Treatment has many benefits. If you have severe acne, which consists of deep and often painful lumps called cysts and nodules, effective acne treatment may prevent acne scars. Clearing acne usually improves a person’s self-esteem. Some patients say they feel happier and more confident.
If you want to treat acne, it is important to have realistic expectations. Misinformation about the acne treatment is widespread. Here are five important facts about acne treatment that you should know:

  1. It takes time to see results (at least 4-8 weeks)
  2. “Overnight results” or “immediate cure” is not possible.
  3. Treatment may help to clear existing acne faster but works best to prevent new breakouts.
  4. To continue seeing results, you must continue treating acne even after your skin has cleared.
  5. When red acne bumps go away, they often leave red or brown flat marks which will gradually go away over several months. These are not necessarily permanent scars.

How is acne treated?

Dermatologists customize acne treatment for each patient. Before creating a treatment plan for you, a dermatologist must know some important information about you. Be sure your dermatologist knows if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • Trying to become pregnant
  • Allergic to any previous treatments you may have tried for acne.


To get your acne under control, you may need to use more than one acne treatment. This approach is called combination therapy and can produce the best results.