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Acne Overview

For most people, acne breakouts are temporary and can be treated effectively. Learn more about what causes acne.

For most people, acne breakouts are temporary and can be treated effectively. But in more severe cases, acne can lead to anxiety and depression. However, these psychological effects begin to resolve when acne is treated.

So what is acne exactly? Acne is a condition that causes skin lesions; more commonly referred to as pimples, papules, pustules and cysts. Typically these appear when your skin produces too much oil and combines with dead skin cells to block pores and hair follicles. The clogged follicles can become infected.

While acne is often associated with teenagers, it can occur at any age. Pimples may form on the face, back, neck or chest, where most of your body's oil glands are found. 85% of people are affected by acne at some point in their lives, and people of all ethnicities are at risk.  

There are different types of acne lesions. Comedones are clogged hair follicles, which come in two varieties: whiteheads and blackheads. Whiteheads are below the skin's surface and appear as slightly raised, skin-colored bumps. Blackheads lie at the surface of the skin. Exposure to air causes the oil and dead skin cells to oxidize and turn darker. Papules are small pink bumps that may feel tender to the touch. Pustules are pus-filled lesions. When clogged pores are very deep in the skin, this may lead to bacterial overgrowth and the formation of nodules, which are infected cysts.  

What causes acne? Hormones probably play a role, since they stimulate glands which produce oil that can clog pores. This may be why many teenagers experience acne during puberty, and why adult women can develop pimples during pregnancy. Certain medications can cause acne, as well as exposure to oily substances or cosmetics.

There are many myths about acne. For example, dirt, chocolate and greasy food do not cause it. Also, popping pimples does not speed up healing and can make inflammation worse.  

The sooner you treat your acne, the less likely you are to experience lasting physical and emotional effects. 

Bobby Buka, MD

This video features Bobby Buka, MD. Dr. Buka is a section chief at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr. Buka is also a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology and the Society for Pediatric Dermatology.

Duration: 3:18. Last Updated On: Nov. 8, 2017, 6:14 p.m.
Reviewed by: Holly Atkinson, MD, Dr Supriya Jain, Preeti Parikh, MD . Review date: Aug. 22, 2012
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