What Causes Acne?

What Causes Acne?


Acne is a very common skin condition that affects individuals of all ages, but it is most common in teenagers due to increased oil production from hormone changes. The condition is characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, and inflamed red bumps that form on the skin. Acne occurs when the pores, or the tiny holes on the surface of the skin, become clogged. Acne can be painful and embarrassing, but there are numerous treatment options available.

Pimples generally form when the pores become clogged with an excessive amount of oil. This oil traps dirt, bacteria, and debris that lead to breakouts. Excess oil production may be triggered by changes in hormones caused by puberty, menstrual periods, stress, or pregnancy. Cosmetics and hair products that contain oil may also lead to clogged pores as can certain drugs like birth control pills, steroids, testosterone, and estrogen. Also, many people suffer from acne breakouts during the warm summer months due to increased humidity and sweating.

Types of Acne

Acne most commonly appears on the face, chest, and shoulders, but it can occur anywhere including the arms, legs, and back. Symptoms include cysts, small red bumps on the surface of the skin, pustules, blackheads, whiteheads, and crusting or scabbing of skin bumps. Because it is such a common problem, testing typically is not required to diagnose acne. Doctors can reach a diagnosis regarding the exact type of acne simply by examining the skin.

Treating Acne

There are numerous at-home treatments that many people try before visiting a doctor or dermatologist. Many companies offer medicated facial washes that are designed to remove excess oil as well as makeup, sweat, and debris that can clog pores. Acne sufferers may also try over-the-counter topical medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These products are designed to kill bacteria and reduce the amount of oil on the skin. For many people, these products are very effective; however, they may cause redness or peeling of the skin when used in excess.

In severe or persistent cases of acne, a visit to the doctor may be required. Doctors can prescribe stronger topical creams as well as oral antibiotics to help clear acne. In cases where hormones cause excess oil production, they may also prescribe a form of hormone therapy. A dermatologist may suggest specific procedures such as photodynamic therapy or a chemical peel. In cases of cystic acne, cortisone injections may be recommended. These procedures and treatments are mild and minimally invasive, but they are typically only recommended when other methods fail.

For most people, acne clears up on its own with age. Breakouts can typically be managed through over-the-counter or prescribed treatments. When left untreated, severe acne may lead to scarring.

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