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The Truth Behind Acne

In the United States, acne is the most common skin condition. Though most people who do have acne are teenagers, it is important to understand that acne is not specific to the “teenage” years. In fact, the total number of adults to have acne is continuously growing. Interestingly enough, more women in their thirties and beyond have acne than men. In the United States, around 40 to 50 million people have acne at any one time.

So, what causes acne? When a pore in the skin clogs, acne appears—a process that starts with dead skin cells. The dead skin cells typically rise to the surface of the pore as the body sheds the cells. When the body produces an oil that prevents skin from drying out (sebum), the dead skin cells may stick together, and coincidentally are trapped inside the pore. Much like the dead skin cells, bacteria living on the skin (acne) can get inside the pore. Once inside, the bacteria can multiply and the pore appears swollen and red as it becomes inflamed.

Many people have an idea of what acne looks like; however, acne appears as blackheads, whiteheads, papules, papules, pustules (pimples), cysts, and nodules. Acne can appear all over the body, particularly on the face, chest, back, shoulders, neck, upper arms, and buttocks.

When diagnosing acne, a dermatologist will examine the skin to ensure acne is present. If so, the dermatologist will grade the acne on a scale from Grade 1 (mild acne) to Grade 4 (severe acne). They will also determine what type(s) of acne are present. If the acne is mild with only a few blemishes, this can be treated with over the counter product, without a prescription, that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Despite what the product states, it will not clear the acne overnight. Rather, improvements should be seen after 4-8 weeks of treatment. Even after the acne clears, continue to use the treatment to prevent future acne.

If a lot of acne, nodules, or cysts are present, over the counter medication may not be strong enough to clear the skin. Contact a dermatologist if you want clearer skin. A dermatologist has several options to treat acne and will determine what best suits individual needs. They could prescribe a topical treatment, a treatment applied directly to the skin, which could help kill bacteria and/or reduce oil. A dermatologist could also prescribe medicine that works throughout the body such as antibiotics, isotretinoin, and/or birth control pills for hormonal control. A dermatologist could also treat acne with an in office procedure such as laser and other light therapies, drainage and extraction acne removal, and/or chemical peels.

A common misconception on the subject is that you have to let acne run its course. This is not the case. If you let acne run its course, permanent scars and dark spots may appear on the skin once acne clears. Getting acne cleared up often raises one’s confidence and self-esteem. With so many effective treatments available, why let acne run its course?

If you would like to reduce your acne, follow these tips from dermatologists:

  • Wash your skin twice a day and after sweating

  • Be gentle with your skin

  • Scrubbing your skin can make acne worse

  • Use your fingertips to apply a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser

  • Rinse with lukewarm water

  • Keep your hands off your face

  • Let your skin heal naturally—don’t pick, pop your acne

  • Stay away from tanning beds and out of the sun

Today, almost every type of acne can be treated successfully. Dr. David Kouba can help clear existing acne, reduce the possibility of having acne scars, and prevent future acne breakouts. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the care for your skin, contact Dr. Kouba at Toledo Clinic Facial Plastics and Dermatology to set up an appointment.

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