Acne is a skin condition characterized by whiteheads, blackheads, and inflamed red pimples or "zits."
- Crusting of skin eruptions
- Inflammation around the skin eruptions
- Redness around the skin eruptions
- Scarring of the skin
- Take the following self-care steps to lessen the effects of acne:
- Clean your skin gently with a mild, non-drying soap (such as Dove, Neutrogena, or Basics). Remove all dirt or make-up. Wash once or twice a day, including after exercising. However, avoid excessive or repeated skin washing.
- Shampoo your hair daily, especially if it's oily. Comb or pull your hair back to keep the hair out of your face. Avoid tight headbands.
- Try not to squeeze, scratch, pick, or rub the pimples. Although it might be tempting to do this, it can lead to scarring and skin infections.
- Avoid touching your face with your hands or fingers.
- Avoid greasy cosmetics or creams. Look for water-based or "non-comedogenic" formulas. Take make-up off at night.
- At the first hint of a breakout, grab an ice cube. Wrap it in a piece of plastic and hold it to the affected area at least twice a day-every hour- but for no longer than five minutes at a time.
- Aspirin can help reduce inflammation.
- Tea tree oil on blemishes helps to discourage infection and speed healing. Research has found that 5% tea tree oil is as effective against acne as a 5% benzoyl peroxide solution.
- For acne that flares up at that time of the month, drink one to two cups of chasteberry tea a day. Some studies show that this herb helps regulate female hormones. Give the herb two to three months to work. And don't drink copious amounts of the tea to hasten the results- it may make your skin look worse.
- Dab vinegar or lemon juice on pimples. All vinegars contain acids than can help flush out pores- so does lemon juice.
- An old folk remedy for healing pimples is to use a mixture of spice and honey on them, Combine 1 teaspoon powered nutmeg and 1 teaspoon honey, and apply it to the pimple. Leave on for 20 minutes, then wash off. There's no proof that this helps, but honey does have antiseptic properties.
- Apply aloe vera. One study found that 90% of skin sores were completely healed with aloe vera within 5 days.
- Think zinc. People with acne tend to have lower than normal zinc levels. Zinc supplements produce visible improvement in about a third of the people who take them. You will need high doses, though – between 200-600mg daily- so take it only under your doctors supervision.
- Acne occurs when tiny holes on the surface of the skin, called pores, become clogged. Each pore is an opening to a canal called a follicle, which contains a hair and an oil gland. Normally, the oil glands help keep the skin lubricated and help remove old skin cells. When glands produce too much oil, the pores can become blocked, accumulating dirt, debris, and bacteria. The blockage is called a plug or comedone.
- The top of the plug may be white (whitehead) or dark (blackhead). If it ruptures, the material inside, including oil and bacteria, can spread to the surrounding area and cause an inflammatory reaction. If the inflammation is deep in your skin, the pimples may enlarge to form firm, painful cysts.
- Acne commonly appears on the face and shoulders, but may also occur on the trunk, arms, legs, and buttocks.
- Acne is most common in teenagers, but it can happen at any age, even as an infant. Three out of four teenagers have acne to some extent, probably caused by hormonal changes that stimulate oil production. However, people in their 30s and 40s may also have acne.
- Acne tends to run in families and can be triggered by:
- Hormonal changes related to menstrual periods, pregnancy, birth control pills, or stress
- Greasy or oily cosmetic and hair products
- Certain drugs (such as steroids, testosterone, estrogen, and phenytoin)
- High levels of humidity and sweating
- Despite the popular belief that chocolate, nuts, and other foods cause acne, this does not seem to be true.
Tests & diagnosis
Your doctor can diagnose acne based on the appearance of the skin. Testing is usually not required.
Acne usually subsides after adolescence, but may last into middle age. The condition generally responds well to treatment after a few weeks, but may flare up from time to time. Scarring may occur if severe acne is not treated. Some people, especially teenagers, can become significantly depressed if acne is not treated.
Possible complications include:
- Changes in skin color
- Damage to self-esteem, confidence, personality, and social life
- Permanent facial scars
- Side effects of Accutane (including very dry skin and mucous membranes, high triglyceride levels, liver damage, and birth defects in an unborn baby; call your doctor right away if you become pregnant while taking this drug)
- Side effects of other medications
When to contact a doctor
Call your doctor or a dermatologist if:
- Self-care measures and over-the-counter medicine have not helped after several months
- Your acne is severe (for example, you have lots of redness around the pimples or you have cysts) or getting worse
- You develop scars as your acne clears up
Call your pediatrician if your baby has acne that does not clear up on its own within 3 months.