Acne affects over
50 million
people in the U.S. annually
Breakouts peak at
14-17 years
of age
Minor acne affects
85% of people
between the ages of 12 and 24
Acne-prone pores shed
5 layers
of skin cells daily
What Is Acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), acne is the most common skin disorder, and it affects up to 50 million people in the United States each year. Most people develop acne symptoms as teenagers, but it can also develop in adulthood. The AAD estimates that 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 have at least minor acne.

But what exactly is acne? It’s an inflammatory skin condition that affects the skin’s hair follicles and oil glands. The acne symptoms you develop are determined by the type of acne you have, and it can form on many areas of the body, including your face, neck, chest, back, and shoulders. Some people may have only mild whiteheads or blackheads, but others may develop large, painful lumps that form deep under the skin.

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What Are the Types of Acne?

The two types of acne are non-inflammatory and inflammatory. These two categories contain six different subtypes of acne: whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules. Whiteheads and blackheads are types of non-inflammatory acne, while papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules are inflammatory types of acne. It’s common for people to have multiple types of acne at the same time. Let’s take a closer look at each subtype of acne and the acne symptoms they cause:

Non-inflammatory Acne:
Whiteheads Whiteheads are also called closed comedones, and they form when pores are clogged by dead skin cells and oil. They’re closed at the surface of the skin and appear as a small white bump. Since whiteheads can’t be removed by squeezing them, you shouldn’t try to pop them. Trying to squeeze a whitehead can damage your skin, possibly leading to scarring.

Blackheads Blackheads are known as open comedones because the top of the pore stays open. Since the rest of the pore is clogged, blackheads appear as small black dots at the surface of the skin. Just like whiteheads, blackheads develop when pores are clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Although you can remove a blackhead by squeezing it, this isn’t recommended by dermatologists because it can cause scarring.

How Is Acne Treated?

Acne treatment varies for each person and depends on the type of acne you have and its severity. If you have whiteheads or blackheads, your dermatologist may recommend products containing salicylic acid or topical retinoids derived from vitamin A, such as tretinoin (Retin-A) or adapalene (Differin). Treatments containing these ingredients work by exfoliating the skin and encouraging cell turnover, removing dead skin cells before they can clog your pores. If you have multiple whiteheads in one spot, you can also use an acne spot treatment containing benzoyl peroxide.

If you have pimples and blemishes, your dermatologist may recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for acne treatment. These products are usually applied to your entire face, although some are designed for acne spot treatment. In addition to fighting inflammation and controlling oil production, products with these ingredients can treat existing acne and prevent new blemishes from forming.

For larger pustules and papules, your dermatologist will likely prescribe an acne medication, such as an oral antibiotic, to treat bacteria and soothe inflammation.

Girl getting acne exam
Girl getting acne exam

Acne treatment varies for each person and depends on the type of acne you have and its severity. If you have whiteheads or blackheads, your dermatologist may recommend products containing salicylic acid or topical retinoids derived from vitamin A, such as tretinoin (Retin-A) or adapalene (Differin). Treatments containing these ingredients work by exfoliating the skin and encouraging cell turnover, removing dead skin cells before they can clog your pores. If you have multiple whiteheads in one spot, you can also use an acne spot treatment containing benzoyl peroxide.

If you have pimples and blemishes, your dermatologist may recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for acne treatment. These products are usually applied to your entire face, although some are designed for acne spot treatment. In addition to fighting inflammation and controlling oil production, products with these ingredients can treat existing acne and prevent new blemishes from forming.

For larger pustules and papules, your dermatologist will likely prescribe an acne medication, such as an oral antibiotic, to treat bacteria and soothe inflammation.

Skin Care Tips for Managing and Preventing Acne

In addition to increasing your risk of skin cancer, the sun also can aggravate acne. Be sure to protect your skin from the sun and apply an oil-free sunscreen every day. This is especially important, since some acne treatments make your skin more susceptible to damage from the sun.

Make sure you’re consistently using your prescription or over-the-counter treatments. According to the AAD, it can take four to six weeks before you start seeing signs of improvement from topical treatments. Applying topical treatments consistently is crucial to treating and preventing acne.

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