Acne vulgaris - self-care; Cystic acne - self-care; Pimples - self-care; Zits - self-care
Acne is a skin condition that causes pimples or "zits." Whiteheads (closed comedones), blackheads (open comedones), red, inflamed papules, and nodules or cysts may develop. These most often occur on the face, neck, upper trunk and upper arm.
Acne occurs when tiny pores on the surface of the skin become clogged. The pores can become plugged by substances on the surface of the skin. More commonly they develop from a mixture of the natural oils of the skin and the dead cells shed from the inside of the pore. These plugs are called comedones. Acne is most common in teenagers. But anyone can get acne.
Acne breakouts can be triggered by:
To keep your pores from clogging and your skin from becoming too oily:
Acne medicines can cause skin drying or peeling. Use a moisturizer or skin cream that is water-based or "noncomedogenic" or that clearly states that is safe to use on the face and will not cause acne. Remember that products that say they are noncomedogenic might still cause acne in you personally. Therefore, avoid any product that you find makes your acne worse.
A small amount of sun exposure may improve acne slightly. However, too much exposure to sun or in tanning booths increases the risk for skin cancer. Some acne medicines can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Use sunscreen and hats regularly if you are taking these medicines.
There is no consistent evidence that you need to avoid chocolate, milk, high-fat foods, or sweetened foods. However, it is a good idea to avoid any of foods if you find eating those specific foods seems to make your acne worse.
To further prevent acne:
If daily skin care does not clear up blemishes, try over-the-counter acne medicines that you apply to your skin.
If these acne medicines cause your skin to become irritated:
If pimples are still a problem after you've tried over-the-counter medicines, your health care provider may suggest:
Call your provider or a dermatologist if:
Draelos ZD. Cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 153.
James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Acne. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 13.
Tan AU, Schlosser BJ, Paller AS. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2017;4(2):56-71. PMID 29872679 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29872679/.
Zaenglein AL, Thiboutot DM. Acne vulgaris. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 36.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/21/2020
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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