What is acne?
Acne is the term for the pimples and complexion problems that trouble many teenagers, adults, and even young children. Pimples mainly develop on the face, but they can often be found on the neck, chest, back, and upper arms as well. Acne is only a skin problem, and typically has nothing to do with your general health.
What are the causes?
Acne occurs when a pore in the skin becomes clogged by dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells will rise to the surface of a pore, where the body sheds it. When your body produces a lot of sebum (oil that prevents our skin from drying out), it can cause dead skin cells to combine and stick together. When this happens, these cells become trapped inside of the pore instead of rising to the surface and acne will develop.
Pores can also become clogged by the bacteria that lives on our skin, p. acnes. Bacteria thrives in pores; once inside it will quickly multiply. With an abundance of bacteria inside, the pore becomes inflamed and your skin will appear red and swollen. If the inflammation is deep enough, acne cysts or nodules will appear.
In order to effectively treat acne, it should be properly diagnosed by a dermatologist. There are other skin conditions that can look like acne, so it is important for a dermatologist to:
- Examine your skin
- Determine if you have acne
- Grade the acne (grade 1 is mild; grade 4 is severe)
- Note what type, or types, of acne that appear on your skin
Dermatologists can provide many effective treatments for acne, but keep in mind that not every case can be controlled.
If you have mild acne or a few blemishes, you mostly deal with whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and/or pustules (pimples). Over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can be very effective for mild cases. It is important to note, however, that these products will not clear up your skin overnight. At-home treatments often require 4-8 weeks for improvements to be seen.*
When should I see a dermatologist?
If you have a lot of acne, cysts, or nodules, at-home treatments won’t always be enough to do the trick. In these cases, it is best to see a dermatologist. A dermatologist can provide you with a prescription for topical treatments and medication. Topicals are applied directly to the skin, and some kill bacteria while others reduce oil. Your dermatologist will be able to determine if topical medicine containing a retinoid, prescription-strength salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or antibiotics will help your skin the most.
Medication that works throughout the body may be needed if you have red, swollen types of acne, cysts, and nodules. Antibiotics help to reduce inflammation and destroy bacteria. Isotretinoin is a very powerful prescription that typically works on all forms of acne. Women may be prescribed birth control pills or other medications that work on hormones.
Request an appointment
To get acne treatments from board-certified dermatologists in Burlington, Massachusetts, schedule an appointment with DermPhysicians of New England. When you come in for your first appointment, we will determine the severity of your acne and create a treatment plan for you. We provide topical medicine, antibiotics, and we also provide chemical peels and non-invasive laser treatments. To find out which treatment(s) will work best for your skin, request an appointment online or give us a call at (781) 272-7022.