Acne — the curse of teens and young adults

Differin for acne

Acne is a common skin condition that causes pimples, which form when pores clog. Teenagers and young adults are most commonly affected, and pimples generally appear on the face, neck, chest, back, and shoulders.

This annoying but common malady is caused when a pore is clogged with dead skin cells. Normally dead cells come to the surface of the pore and are shed from the body, but when the body makes a lot of sebum (or oil) it causes the dead skin cells to stick together. The cells then remain trapped in the pore, clogging it.

Occasionally normal bacteria that lives on our skin (p. acnes) gets trapped inside the clogged pore, too. The bacteria quickly multiply and the pore becomes red and swollen, sometimes producing a cyst or nodule.


Acne covers a wide range of blemishes, including the ones listed below, and may appear on the back, neck, chest, upper arms, shoulders, and buttocks.

  • Blackheads;
  • Whiteheads;
  • Papules;
  • Pustules (i.e. pimples);
  • Cysts; and
  • Nodules.

There are other symptoms that can develop, including:

  • Low self-esteem: people say their skin condition makes them feel bad about themselves;
  • Depression: sometimes the low-esteem can turn into medical depression;
  • Dark spots on the skin: they appear when the condition heals and can take months to years to disappear; and
  • Permanent scars: they usually appear when the skin heals; can be prevented through treatment.

Many acne sufferers have discovered that certain triggers increase their risk for developing acne. Below are listed some common ones:

  • Hormonal changes: during a woman’s menses or pregnancy;
  • Certain medications: supplements or steroids that increase testosterone;
  • Makeup: oil-based products, suntan lotions, etc.;
  • Stress;
  • Picking or squeezing existing pimples; and
  • Scrubbing your skin harshly.

Using the above information, as well as employing basic skin care, you can try to control your mild acne outbreaks. Examples of good skin self-care include:

  • Using a gentle cleanser to wash problem areas;
  • Using over-the-counter (OTC) acne products for excessively oily areas;
  • Avoiding irritants;
  • Using an oil-free moisturizer with sunscreen;
  • Being careful about what touches your skin; and
  • Not picking or squeezing blemishes.

If you don’t have relief after using OTC products, you may need to consult with a dermatologist (skin specialist). They will prescribe you one of three treatment plans:

Topical acne treatments

Oral acne treatments

Acne therapies

  • Light Therapy;
  • Chemical Peel;
  • Extraction of Whiteheads and Blackheads; and
  • Steroid Injections.

For those who have acne scars, there are several procedures that can be performed by a dermatologist to diminish them.

  • Soft tissue fillers;
  • Chemical peels;
  • Dermabrasion;
  • Laser resurfacing;
  • Light therapy; and
  • Skin surgery.

About the Author

Julie Kaplan, Pharm. D.
Julie Kaplan is a licensed pharmacist in Virginia and the District of Columbia. She received a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from The College of William and Mary and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has experience in patient communication from working as a retail pharmacist.