Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at January 13, 2016

Acne refers to a skin condition that occurs when the hair follicles get plugged with dead skin cells and oil. It is a general skin condition that affects many young people.


Definition & Facts

Typically, acne appears on the face, chest, back, neck, and shoulders. Acne normally affects teenagers, and the reported prevalence amongst this group is between 70 to 87 percent. Various statistics indicate that young children can also get acne as well.

Based on the severity of the condition, acne can cause scars as well as cause emotional distress. The earlier an individual with acne begins his or her treatment, the lower the chances of having lasting emotional and physical damage.

Though there are a plethora of treatment procedures, acne can be persistent. The acne bumps and pimples heal slowly and once they heal, others can emerge from within.

Symptoms & Complaints

Symptoms of acne include:

  • Low self-esteem: many suffering from acne complain of low-self esteem. Individuals with severe acne pimples may stay away from their friends and may even avoid going to school.
  • Dark spots on the skin: Acne causes dark spots once the ripe acne heals. It can take up to two years for acne spots to completely heal.
  • Scars: People with acne get nodules and cysts and when they clear they often cause scars.


Acne is naturally caused by the clogging of the pores in our skin. The clogging of the skin begins when dead skins are eliminated out of the body via the skin pores.

Another factor that causes acne on the skin is the presence of high levels of oil in the body. If the body makes a lot of sebum, the oil that keeps skin moisturized, it can cause dead cells to stick together in the pores, resulting in pimples.

Sometimes, acne is caused by the multiplication of bacteria in the skin. When the bacteria get into the skin, they get a perfect environment within the pores where they multiply in numbers causing acne to crop up. When there is a huge presence of bacteria in the pores, the pores get inflamed appearing as pimples on the skin. When the inflammation gets deeper into the skin, acne nodules and cysts appear.

Diagnosis & Tests

To effectively diagnose acne, a dermatologist will examine the skin. If determining that one has acne, the doctor will grade it on a scale from mild to severe. Grading scales differ with some grading mild to severe symptoms from one to eight and others from one to four.

Besides examining the skin, the dermatologist may ask questions that will further help in ruling out other conditions. Some of the commonly asked questions concern depression or mood disorders, areas of sensitive skin, previous drug allergies, use of contraceptives, current or past pregnancy, irregular menstrual cycle, and use of steroids. In some instances, acne can imitate other related skin disorders; therefore, these questions will help the dermatologist make an informed diagnosis.

Treatment & Therapy

Most people with mild acne can treat it using non-prescription topical medications. Products with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoid are often useful in clearing mild acne.

Procedures that treat acne include laser therapy and other light therapies, chemical peels, and scar removal.

It may be necessary to take antibiotics when the risk of skin infection is moderate in order to prevent acquiring a secondary bacterial infection.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

Though it is difficult to prevent acne, there are measures one can take to prevent it to some degree. These measures are mostly practiced at home, and they include regular washing. Washing one's skin gently using soup every day without scrubbing the skin or washing it too often can help prevent acne.

Making sure to wash immediately after activities that cause sweating as well as washing one's hair regularly is also crucial. Keeping one's hair out of one's face may limit the oil transmitted from the hair onto the face.

Avoiding hair products such as cream rinse, gels, mousses, and pomades that contain a lot of oil may help prevent acne. Refraining from touching one's face and avoiding exposure to to harsh chemicals and oils, such as petroleum, can also help prevent acne.

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