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Navigate: FAQ Home Page > Acne & Skin Concerns > FAQs about Acne
How can I treat my acne?
How can I avoid getting acne?
What if my acne doesn't go away?
There are three main causes of acne.
- Overproduction of sebum
- Clogged pores from dirt and debris of dead skin cells
- Infection from bacteria in the sebaceous gland
Acne can be aggravated by many things.
- Pinching pimples or scrubbing skin
- Things that rub on the skin (headbands, hats, etc.)
- Certain cosmetics, creams or hair products containing oil
- Some medications, including birth control pills with higher doses of progesterone
- Hormones during puberty
- For girls, increased hormones just before menstrual periods
- For boys, increased levels of testosterone
- Emotional stress and nervous tension.
The Myth: What Does Not Lead to Acne
Contrary to popular opinion, the following things do not lead to acne.
- Greasy foods (such as french fries)
Treating and Avoiding Acne
Use a mild cleanser such as Cetaphil, or an acne cleanser such as Aveeno acne bar, Neutrogena Acne Wash or Benzoyl Peroxide 5% bar.
Exfoliating, which removes the layer of dead skin cells, is also important for healthy skin. After washing your face with a mild cleanser, exfoliate with face facial scrub one to two times a week. This can help reduce dead skin cells and debris which can clog pores and cause more acne.
To avoid further clogging of your pores, all cosmetics, lotions and sunscreens should be oil-free! To avoid dry skin, use an oil-free lotion such as Complex 15. To avoid sunburn use oil-free products such as Neutrogena or Coppertone Oil-free Sunscreen. And remember to beware of hair products and gels, as they tend to be very oily.
Look for product labels that read "Non-comedogenic", meaning they won't clog pores.
If Acne Doesn't Go Away
If acne doesn't go away with over-the-counter products, see your physician. He or she may recommend you see a dermotologist or prescribe a medication to treat acne.
Benzoyl peroxide can be found in many over the counter acne medications. It kills bacteria that worsen acne, unplugging oil ducts, and helping to heal acne pimples.
- Start conservatively, with 5% gel or lotion once a day (such as after you wash your face to go to bed)
- After one week, increase use to twice a day if you are not using another medication.
- If your acne is not better after 4 to 6 weeks, try a 10% solution. It is now available over-the-counter (without a doctor's prescription). Be sure to get the pure form: you may want to ask the pharmacist for the type that used to be available by prescription only.
Retin-A is available with a doctor's prescription only. It acts by opening up blocked oil glands and prevents new pimples.
- Retin-A may cause your skin to become very red and dry, and may cause peeling. Newer medications have milder side effects. You should ask your doctor to switch your medication if you suffer some of these side effects.
- As your doctor will tell you, Retin-A should only be used at night, because it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and more susceptible to sunburn. Use extra sunscreen and sun protection when outdoors.
- It may take 2 to 3 months to see improvement in your skin. Be patient, follow your doctor's instructions and remember to stick with the program. (Acne may get worse before it gets better.)
- For females - your physician may prescribe birth control pills prior to starting you on Retin-A, as it can be extremely harmful to fetal development in pregnant women.
Antibiotics are available with a doctor's prescription only. Antibiotics can be very helpful for acne that is swollen and red, or for acne that is not improving with other medications. The antibiotics kill the bacteria which contribute to whiteheads.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. Take the antibiotic pills with plenty of water.
- Some antibiotics may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, wear sunscreen when outdoors.
Accutane is available with a doctor's prescription only. Accutane is a very powerful pill--it is intended for people with severe scarring, or acne that cannot be controlled by other medications.
- Blood testing is done frequently when taking Accutane, as it can affect blood cell count and levels.
- For females - your physician may require you to prove you are on two forms of birth control prior to prescribing Accutane, as it can be extremely harmful to fetal development in pregnant women.
- Some physicians will not prescribe Accutane.
Teen Advisory Board of PAMF