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(Pimples; Blackheads; Whiteheads; Acne Vulgaris)
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- Changes in levels of male hormones called androgens
- Increased sebum production
- Changes inside the hair follicle
Changes in hormone levels, such as during:
- The time before a menstrual period
- Certain medication such as androgens, lithium, and barbiturates
- Certain cosmetic products
- Excess oil in the skin
- Papules—small, pink bumps that may be tender to the touch
- Pimples—inflamed, pus-filled bumps that may be red at the base
- Nodules—large, painful, solid lumps that are lodged deep within the skin
- Cysts—deep, inflamed, pus-filled lumps that can cause pain and scarring
Over-the-counter topical medications such as cleansers, creams, lotions, and gels—to reduce the amount of oil and/or bacteria in the pores. These medications may contain one of the following ingredients:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid
Prescription topical medications—includes cleansers, creams, lotions, and gels to reduce the amount of oil and/or bacteria in the pores. Examples include:
- Antibiotics, such as clindamycin, erythromycin
- Retinoids, such as tretinoin adapalene
Oral antibiotics—to control the amount of bacteria in pores, including:
Oral medications—to control androgen levels, including:
- Birth control pills
Oral retinoids—to reduce the size and secretions of sebaceous glands. This medication is only used for severe cases of cystic acne.
- Isotretinoin—must not be taken by women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant due to the risk of serious birth defects.
- Corticosteroids—the injection of corticosteroid directly into the cyst; mostly used for large, cystic acne lesions
- Acne surgery
- Chemical peels—uses glycolic acid and other chemical agents to loosen blackheads and decrease acne papules
- Dermabrasion —used to treat deep acne scars
- Scar excision—used to reduce or improve the appearance of acne scars
- Collagen fillers—used to add volume to acne scars to make them appear more smooth
- Light and laser therapies
- Gently wash your face with mild soap and warm water no more than twice a day to remove excess oil. Scrubbing or washing too often can make acne worse.
- Allow your face to dry before applying any lotion.
- Do not pick at or squeeze blemishes.
- Use lotions, soaps, and cosmetics labeled noncomedogenic. This means it won't clog your pores.
- Use topical acne treatments only as directed. Using them more often could make your condition worse.
- Recognize and limit emotional stress whenever possible.
- Wear sunscreen year-round. This is especially important if you are using medication that can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
The Acne Resource Center Online http://www.acne-resource.org
The American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org
Canadian Dermatology Association http://www.dermatology.ca
Acne. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/acne. Accessed December 12, 2013.
Acne. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 18, 2013. Accessed December 12, 2013.
Questions and answers about acne. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Acne/default.asp. Updated May 2013. Accessed December 12, 2013.
9/2/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed : Arowojolu A, Gallo M, Lopez L, Grimes D, Garner S. Combined oral contraceptive pills for treatment of acne. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(3):CD004425.
- Reviewer: Peter Lucas, MD
- Review Date: 12/2013
- Update Date: 12/12/2013