What is acne? What causes it and how can I reduce or prevent acne?

Acne is a skin problem that affects people of all ages and race. It commonly affects adolescents and young adults and can last for five to ten years. Acne is the term for plugged pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and even deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and even the upper arms. 

Acne begins when sebaceous (oil) glands (located in hair follicles) become clogged with dead skin cells, debris, bacteria and sebum (oily substance) resulting in a whitehead, blackhead, or a pimple just beneath the skins surface. A whitehead is a firm, white bump while a blackhead is a darkened duct opening (the oxidation of the materials at the surface of the duct and accumulation of pigment causes the black color; it is not dirt).

The production of sebum (an oily substance) against the pressure of the duct walls and against a whitehead results in the rupture of the duct walls. The escape of this oily substance along with keratin causes inflammation and a pustule. This creates a small elevation of the skin filled with pus, known as a pimple. If rupture occurs, especially within the deeper skin layers, a nodule or cyst may form thus increasing the risk of scarring to occur.

Washing the face in the morning and before bedtime will help remove surface oil, dead skin and dirt. Use mild soap; abrasive soaps may leave the skin too irritated or dry. Rinse well and pat dry. Remember excessive face washing doesn’t help to clear acne it will only irritate the skin. Nonprescription medications that may be beneficial are those that contain 2.5 - 5% benzoyl peroxide (use lower percentages during the winter months to prevent excessive drying of the skin). Before using such products please consult your dermatologist.


a) Squeezing or picking acne, this can spread inflammation and cause permanent scarring.
b) Moisturizers, sun care products and oil-based cosmetics. These may increase the chances of clogged pores. It is best to purchase water-based and non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging).


a) A healthy balanced diet
b) Regular exercise and physical activity.