Acne - What is it? What causes it? How is it treated?

Acne is a disease involving the sebaceous glands of the skin and effects over 80% of adolescents and many adults. Clear Skin

Acne occurs when oil produced by the sebaceous glands does not reach the skin surface. Instead it becomes trapped in the tiny pores or follicles of the skin. This obstruction may close off the pore, causing the follicle wall to bulge. This creates a ‘whitehead’ of bacteria. If the obstructed pore remains open to the surface, the area may become darkened causing a “blackhead.”

In both cases, the bacteria(propionibacterium acnes) thrives within the clogged follicles. When bacteria and pus leaks from these follicles into the surrounding tissue, pimples are formed.  

Causes of acne are multi-factorial and include heredity, hormonal imbalance, and poor nutrition.  

Common topical treatments for acne are available and effective. For more severe situations, they are more effective when used in conjunction with other therapies. Oral prescription medications are available, and include antibiotics and hormone therapy. We currently do not offer Accutane at this time due to its high risk, black box warnings. Mechanical treatment is also available and effective. 

Typically, we initiate treatment with a combination of topical and oral medications. If this treatment is either contraindicated or unsuccessful, we offer medical grade chemical peels which are very effective in treating many types of acne. Microdermabrasion can also be an effective treatment and is often combined with a chemical peel (called a “micropeel”).

There is no single solution for acne and we understand the frustration and social implications associated with it. Our physicians will work with you to plan for the most affordable and effective treatment for your acne. This will depend upon your skin type, acne type, and severity.  

Patient education is imperative in acne treatment as well. It is a common (but mistaken) practice to use abrasives, intense scrubbing, or frequent washing in hopes of drying out or reducing your acne. To the contrary, these practices should be avoided. Use of excessively hot water for washing will also aggravate the situation. One main component of acne is inflammation, and each of these practices can actually make your acne flare up even worse than it already is. The only type of abrasion that may be helpful with certain mild acne types is microdermabrasion, and this is commonly used for the mild comedones which are minimally inflamed.