September 15, 2010 Kim Goldman

Acne, commonly known as zits or blemishes, refers to plugged pores (either blackheads or whiteheads), pimples and deeper lumps (such as cysts or nodules) that can form on all areas of the upper body. Most teenagers suffer from this skin condition, but the disease is not limited by age. Adults up to their 40s may still have acne breakouts. The effects of acne are not threatening, but permanent scarring can occur.

Treatment of light acne

If you get an occasional zit or two, do not worry; it’s nothing serious. However, to prevent such mild breakouts, lightly wash your face twice a day with soap and water. Over-the-counter treatment products can be effective in quickly eliminating light cases of acne. They can be found at any drug store.

Warning signs for severe cases

If you develop a case of ache that meets any of the following criteria, you may wish to consult a dermatologist:

  • Nonprescription treatment products fail to cure the acne
  • Acne causes problems in your social life
  • Scarring occurs
  • Your acne causes you physical pain
  • If you are a dark skinned person, your acne cases dark patches to appear

Causes of Acne

  • Extreme stress and some stress medications
  • Hormones
  • Skin bacteria (scientifically known as P. acnes)
  • Dead skin


  • Dermatologist (to locate a dermatologist near you, click here:
  • Comedo Extraction: Comedo is the medical term for blackheads and whiteheads. Extraction of comedos should be performed only by a doctor under sterile conditions when other treatments have failed. You should not attempt to extract your comedos by popping or picking.
  • Light Chemical Peels: a dermatologist may use glycolic acid and other chemicals to attempt to loosen blackheads and decrease acne.

Myths about Acne

  • Sun tanning cures acne. Exposure to ultraviolet light may hide blemishes, but tanning increases the risk of more serious skin conditions, such as melanoma.
  • Poor hygiene causes acne. Dirt and surface oils do not cause acne. In fact, the irritation caused by excessive scrubbing can result in breakouts. Instead, gentle face washes twice a day are recommended.
  • A bad diet results in acne. Pizza, French fries, chocolate and all the other greasy foods we love to eat are not related to acne in any way. However, eating healthy is always a good thing to do, regardless.
  • Acne is just a cosmetic disease. No one has ever died of acne; that is true. However, the effects of acne can be experienced in more ways than merely your physical appearance. Self-esteem can be greatly diminished because of acne, social withdrawal may occur and can even result in anger and depression.


  • Information about acne geared toward teens: Kidshealth
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