Acne vulgaris, commonly referred to as acne, is a chronic inflammation of the skin that occurs most often during adolescence but can occur off and on throughout life. While acne is usually more severe during adolescence, it is often less socially acceptable to people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. The skin eruptions most often appear on the face, chest, back and upper arms and are more common in males than females.
Most cases of acne respond well to treatment and will likely improve once adolescence is over. Even with adequate treatment, acne will tend to flare up from time to time. Permanent scarring is one of the most serious consequences of acne. People with well-controlled acne tend to have more self-confidence, do better in school and get better jobs.
Oil glands in the skin become plugged for reasons unknown but during adolescence, sex-hormone changes play some role. When oil backs up in the plugged gland, bacteria normally present on the skin causes inflammation. Acne is NOT caused by certain foods, poor hygiene or masturbation. Cleaning the skin is an important part of acne therapy, but overly aggressive scrubbing can make acne appear worse. Sexual activity has no effect on acne. A family history of acne may predict if an individual will get acne and the severity of a person’s case. Currently, acne cannot be prevented, but it can usually be effectively controlled.
If your skin is oily, gently clean face with a fresh, clean wash cloth using unscented soap for 3-5 minutes; an antibacterial soap may work better. A previously used wet washcloth will harbor bacteria. Don’t aggressively scrub tender lesions as this may spread infection or cause inflammation; be gentle. Rinse the soap off for a good 1-2 minutes. Dry the face carefully with a clean towel. This regimen may need to be adjusted according to skin type and medications used for acne.
While isotretinoin is the most powerful drug used to treat acne it needs to be monitored carefully. A special program called iPledge is required if you are to be considered for that medicine. Isotretinoin is not appropriate for most acne patients. Dr. Gross can discuss if this medicine is right for you.
This information does not replace the advice of a physician nor does it imply a physican – patient relationship between the reader and Dr. Gross.