Acne is a skin condition characterized by an outbreak of raised, red bumps on the body, commonly referred to as “pimples” or “zits.” It can impact various parts of the body, but it is common (and often causes the most distress) when present on the face. Its severity can vary from just a few pimples to widespread patches of them in an area. It can affect people of all ages, genders and ethnicities, but it is commonly associated with adolescents.
Acne is usually not a serious condition, but it does cause emotional distress to people of all ages. Severe acne outbreaks can lead to permanent scarring.
Experts believe that acne is primarily caused by elevated levels of hormones called androgens. The levels rise in both boys and girls during puberty, which is why acne is common in adolescents. Hormonal levels can also change in women throughout their menstrual cycle, during pregnancy or while starting and stopping birth control pills. These factors can also lead to acne outbreaks.
Heredity is also a factor in the development of acne. If your parents have it, there’s a good chance that you could develop it, too. Other factors such as medication, cosmetics, tight-fitting clothes or environmental irritants can contribute to the development of acne.
For mild cases of acne, over-the-counter creams, gels, lotions, pads and soaps might be helpful for alleviating the symptoms. In more severe cases, it’s probably best to consult with a dermatologist. A variety of topical and oral medications can be prescribed to help with severe cases of acne.
Regular face washings using a gentle, alcohol-free cleaner and lukewarm water are a good step in preventing acne. Do not aggressively scrub the face as this can irritate the skin. It’s also important to avoid touching the face and avoid the temptation to pop pimples, as this further irritates the skin and can contribute to scarring.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; American Academy of Dermatology