Acne is a skin condition marked by pimples, such as white heads, blackheads, or even raised, red ones that hurt. These pimples show up on the face, neck, shoulders, and/or back. Acne mostly strikes teenagers and young adults. For some, acne, or the scars it can leave, persist into adulthood. Acne results when oil ducts below the skin get clogged with secretions and bacteria. Factors that help cause acne include:
- Normal increase in the levels of the hormone androgen during adolescence.
- Changes in hormone levels before a woman’s menstrual period or during pregnancy.
- Rich moisturizing lotions or heavy or greasy makeup.
- Emotional stress.
- Nutritional supplements that have iodine.
- Cooking oils, tar, or creosote in the air. Creosote is often used as a wood preservative.
- Putting pressure on the face by sleeping on one side of the face or resting your head in your hands.
- Birth control pills, steroids, anti-convulsive medications, and lithium (used to treat some forms of depression).
Most cases of acne can be treated with the self-care tips in the next column. When this is not enough, a doctor can prescribe topical ointments, Retin A cream or gel and/or antibiotics.
Time is the only real cure for acne, but these tips can help:
- Keep your skin clean. Using a clean washcloth every time, work the soap into your skin gently for a minute or two and rinse well.
- Try an astringent lotion, de-greasing pads, or a face scrub.
- Ask your doctor for the name of a good acne soap.
- Leave your skin alone! Don’t squeeze, scratch, or poke at pimples. They can get infected and leave scars.
- Use an over-the-counter lotion or cream that has benzoyl peroxide. (Some people are allergic to benzoyl peroxide. Try a little on your arm first to make sure it doesn’t hurt your skin). Follow the directions as listed.
- Wash after you exercise or sweat.
- Wash your hair at least twice a week and keep it off your face.
- For men: Wrap a warm towel around your face before you shave. This will make your beard softer. Always shave the way the hair grows.
- Don’t spend too much time in the sun. Don’t use a sun lamp.
- Use only water-based makeup. Don’t use greasy or oily creams, lotions, or makeups.
Questions to Ask
Is your acne very bad and do you have signs of an infection with it, such as fever and swelling?
Are the pimples big and painful?
Have you tried self-care and it doesn’t help or does it make your skin worse?