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Acne is a disorder of the skin oil and sweat glands located on the face, chest, and back. These glands produce oil to lubricate the skin. What causes acne? When the body goes through puberty, the hormones (androgens) that cause sexual development and bone growth also affect the oil and sweat glands. Hormones cause adult body odor and increase oil production. The oil also becomes thicker and can plug the opening of glands. Acne can occur once the oil glands become plugged. The oil feeds the germs that live on the skin. These bacteria grow causing pus and redness. If other members of your family had acne, you may be more likely to develop it too.

Acne Lesions:

  • White Heads: Plugged glands with a thin skin cover
  • Black Heads:Plugged glands open to the air. This is not dirt. Red Pustules: Plugged glands that keep making oil and break open under the skin. Red pustules may leave some scars/pits.
  • Cysts: The body walls off the oil and bacteria like a small boil. Cysts leave scars. How do you treat/control acne? Your acne treatment will depend on the severity, type of lesions and affected area of your body. If over-the- counter products are not controlling your acne, your doctor may recommend prescription medications. There are 3 basic ways to treat and control acne:
    1. Clean the Skin: at least once each day; more often if skin gets very sweaty, oily or dirty.
      • Use non-oily, mild soaps, creams and make-ups.
      • Keep hair oil free and clean. Do not use products that contain oil on your hair or scalp.
      • Choose hair styles that keep hair off your face.
    2. Medicated cleansers, lotions, and creams: use as instructed by your doctor.
    3. Oral Medications: pills taken by mouth. Take as instructed by your doctor.

    Your healthcare provider will give you additional written information if you need prescription medications. Be sure to read these handouts.

What to expect:

Acne should improve over 2-3 months. It may appear to be worse for the first 1-2 weeks of treatment. 85% of patients have good to excellent results with treatment in 8-10 weeks. Although the skin may improve, treatment must continue at least until adolescent growth and development is completed. If acne is very severe, you may need to see a dermatologist (skin specialist).

Have patience and report all abnormal medication effects to the doctor. Acne can be embarrassing, but it can be controlled.

Myths about acne:

  1. What you eat makes acne worse. Generally, NO! However, good nutrition is important. French fries, soda and pizza do not cause acne.
  2. Acne is due to dirt. NO! No amount of washing or scrubbing will change the amount of sebum (oily substance) that your skin secretes.

Important hints:

  1. Do not put oily substances on your skin. If you use makeup or lotion choose non-oily formulas which will not clog your pores.
  2. Your doctor will recommend a mild soap that will not dry out your skin. Wash acne prone areas if you sweat during exercise. If you work around greasy food or oil, wash your face as soon as possible to remove the oil so it does not clog your pores. Washing too often can irritate the skin and make acne worse.
  3. Acne bumps should not be scrubbed or picked.

Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/2009

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