12 Days of Dermatology – Day Eight: Acne


Everyone would rather have the white stuff on the ground than whiteheads on the face, especially during this time of year. Whether you’re naughty or nice, acne is one gift everyone would send back if they could.

Acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is characterized by comedone (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that typically occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and even the upper arms. About 85% of all people have acne at some point in their lives. Even though acne usually begins during puberty, anyone can have it at any stage of life.

The cause of acne is unknown, but factors that can contribute to the cause of acne include heredity/genetics, hormones, menstruation, and emotional stress. Acne appears on the skin when overactive sebaceous oil glands produce too much oil and the pores in the skin get plugged. The bacterium Propionibacterium acne (present on everyone’s skin) multiplies in the excess of oil in the blocked pores and leads to inflammation on the skin. Eating greasy foods such as french fries and pizza does not directly cause acne, but some people feel their acne worsens after eating certain foods.

To reduce the appearance of acne, try using noncomedogenic (does not clog pores) and oil-free cosmetics, shampooing hair often, and avoiding astringents, which unnecessarily dry the skin. Depending on how severe your acne is and your skin’s response to over-the-counter medications, you may wish to seek treatment from a dermatologist. ¹

¹American Academy of Dermatology Web site. https://www.aad.org/. Accessed December 11, 2009.

Published on 12/22/2009 | Last updated on 10/18/2018