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Nicklaus Children's Hospital (SX/BC off)

Nicklaus Children's Hospital
3100 S.W. 62nd Avenue
Miami, Florida 33155
(305) 666-6511 or toll-free 1-800-432-6837
Physician referral: 1-888-MCH-DOCS
Email: info@mch.com


What Can I Do About Acne?

What Causes Acne?

Acne is caused by overactive oil glands in the skin and a buildup of oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, which leads to (swelling and redness) in the pores.

Oil glands get stimulated when hormones become active during puberty. That’s why people are likely to get acne in their teens. Because the tendency to develop acne is partly genetic, if other people in your family had (or have) acne, you may be more likely to have it too.

Can I Prevent Acne?

There's no sure way to prevent acne. But these tips might help reduce the number and severity of your breakouts:

  • Washing your skin is the most important thing you can do. It helps remove excess surface oils and dead skin cells that can clog your pores. But washing too much can cause damage by making your skin too dry or irritating acne that’s already there.
  • Remember to wash after exercising because sweat can clog your pores and make your acne worse. If you work around greasy food or oil, if you've been sweating from heat or from working hard, wash your face and other acne-prone areas as soon as possible.
  • If you use skin products, such as lotions or makeup, look for ones that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, which means that they don't clog pores.
  • If you use hair spray or styling gel, try to keep them away from your face as much as possible. Many hair products contain oils that can make acne worse. Try to use water-based products.
  • If you get acne on areas such as your chest or back, avoid wearing tight clothes, which can rub and cause irritation.

How Is Acne Treated?

Over-the-counter (OTC) products work to help clear up acne for some teens. It may take time to find one that works best for you — some may not help and others may irritate skin. OTC acne products come in different strengths. The most popular and effective OTC acne-fighting ingredient is benzoyl peroxide. Another ingredient, salicylic acid, can help dry up pimples.

If OTC products don't work for you, get a doctor's advice. Doctors can prescribe special gels or creams, pills, or a combination of both. It may feel a bit awkward to talk about your acne with someone, but your doctor is trained to help get your skin looking its best.

It's tempting, but popping or squeezing a usually won't get rid of the problem. Squeezing can actually push infected material and pus deeper into the skin, which can lead to more swelling and redness and even scarring, which can be permanent.

If you're taking a prescription acne medicine, finish your entire prescription even if your skin clears up, unless your doctor says it’s OK to stop. If you stop too early, there's a chance your skin could break out all over again.

Eating nutritious foods can help keep you healthy and your skin will benefit from getting enough vitamins and minerals. But you don't need obsess about what you eat or how often you wash your face to control acne. If no OTC product works for you, talk to your doctor or a about how to manage acne.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: August 2020