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Acne 101


You know it when you see it, but what exactly is acne?

Acne is a skin condition that consists of pimples, deeper lumps (cysts or nodules), and plugged pores (blackheads and whiteheads), that occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and even the upper arms.

Who can struggle with acne?

Acne usually begins in puberty, but the condition is not restricted to any age group. Adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s—even into their 50s—can develop acne.

So what causes acne?

Acne is caused by three major factors:
•Overproduction of oil by enlarged oil glands in the skin.
•Blockage of the hair follicles that release oil.
•Growth of bacteria, called P. acnes, within the hair follicles

Acne doesn't always look the same; Do you know how to identify the different kinds of acne?


WHITEHEAD: A pore with a microscopic opening that are filled with sebum, bacteria, dirt and dead cells. Since the air cannot reach the follicle, the material is not oxidized, and remains white.

BLACKHEAD: An impacted pores with a wide opening that are filled with sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells and have undergone a chemical reaction resulting in the oxidation of melanin. The oxygen from the air turns the material in the follicle the typical black color.


PAPULE: A rounded, dermal growth that is raised from the skin. A papule is usually very small in size and may open when scratched and become crusty and infected.

PUSTULE: A small bump or blister that contains pus in the top layer of the skin. Pustules are usually formed in sweat glands or hair follicles.

NODULE: A severe kind of acne that affects deep in the root of follicles. Nodular acne comes in the form of large, painful bumps that affect deeper layers of the skin.

CYST: A cyst or cysts occur when large amounts of pores become clogged and suddenly rupture, leading to infection and inflammation. Cystic acne is most common among teenagers as changes in hormones can mass produce keratin and sebum, which is responsible for the blockage of pores.

BODY ACNE: The ears, neck, chest, back, scalp, shoulders and buttocks have the greatest density of pores, making it easy to attract acne. Hormones, plugged pores and bacteria that produce acne on your face are the same factors that trigger body acne. This type of acne is very common if you live a very active lifestyle. Hair products, laundry detergents and constant friction from tight clothing can also play a part in producing body acne.

Not all acne is the same; there are actually varying grades of acne. Which kind do you have?

GRADE 1: Open and closed comedones. No inflammatory lesions.

GRADE 2: Open and closed comedones. Papules, a few pustules. Inflammation present.

GRADE 3: Comedones, papules, pustules, a few nodules.  Pustules have blister like appearance.

GRADE 4: Comedones, papules, many pustules, nodules, cysts and abscesses (oral therapy recommended).

So in addition to different types and grades of acne, there are multiple types of skin. Which of these best describe you?

NORMAL SKIN: Normal skin has a smooth, clear surface, with fine pores. No visible blemishes, oil patches or dry areas. Sebum production and moisture content are well-balanced. This type of skin is mostly found in children.

OILY SKIN: Oily skin has a mass production of sebum due to overactive sebaceous glands. It is shiny and thick, often with much enlarged pores. Oily skin is prone to all types of acne and other blemishes.

DEHYDRATED SKIN: Dehydrated skin lacks moisture in its top layer, resulting in tightness, dry patches and flaking. Skin appears dull and may lack elasticity, which evolve into fine lines and wrinkles. Dehydrated skin can also experience itching and burning in more extreme cases. 

COMBINATION SKIN: Combination skin is dry in some parts of the skin and oily in other parts. This common skin type is usually dry on the cheeks and around the eyes while producing sebum mainly in the t-zone area (nose, forehead, and chin). Each part requires different skin care regimens. 

SENSITIVE SKIN: Sensitive skin frequently reacts to certain skin care products with redness, itching, burning or dryness. Causes for this condition may be an underlying skin disorder, allergies, contact to irritants in certain products, or the use of inadequate, not skin type-adjusted products.



Popping, scrubbing, tanning—ever heard that these help your skin? Well, it's time to set the record straight.


Acne is something that only happens to teenagers. Teens definitely do suffer from acne, but some people develop acne for the first time in their 20s or 30s. In fact, in Manhattan's business districts, most patients treated for acne vulgaris are women between the ages of 20 and 45. 


Acne occurs because your face is dirty. Many people feel like acne means their face is somehow unclean -- but that's just not true. The truth is, acne is a complex skin disorder that can't be boiled down to simply "dirt." It's likely that the connection between the skin condition and dirt was made because blackheads are, well, black -- but blackheads aren't caused by dirt, either. 


To relieve acne, scrub your face really hard. Remember, acne isn't caused by dirt -- so you can't just wash it away. A cleanser with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur compounds will help clear the skin, but it won't clear it any faster if you scrub harder. Scrubbing acne too hard can actually inflame blackheads, so be sure to be nice to your skin.


Popping your pimples makes everything better. Will you people please stop picking at your faces? Popping pimples spills inflammatory gunk into surrounding tissues, which can cause scarring.


Tanning will help clear acne. Tanning does help hide acne, but the UV rays ultimately dry the skin, and can make the skin condition worse. And do we really need to remind you that tanning causes premature aging, not to mention skin cancer? 


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