With modern photo-editing software, everyone can have flawless skin on paper.

But in real life, problems such as acne cannot be fixed with airbrushing.

Acne is a condition that most people have experienced at some point in their life.

Whether you have experienced acne as a teenager or as an adult, it can be incredibly embarrassing and frustrating.


Acne is often thought of as an adolescent problem; however, pimples and blemishes also crop up in adulthood. Some of the

leading contributors to acne include:


Primarily affecting teenagers, but also adults with some hormonal disorders. Increased hormone levels result in an increased production of sebum, which plays a central role in acne.

External factors

Oil-based cosmetics may increase acne due to clogging of pores. Non-oil cosmetic products are water-based and less likely to promote acne.

Some individuals with acne use acne-targeted skin care cleansers that help remove sebum, but have no effect on sebum production. Aggressive scrubbing can actually irritate skin and result in more acne.


The role of diet is controversial with only a few studies finding a weak association between diet and acne.


There is some evidence that increased stress levels result in increased acne.

Though the cause of acne is often the same at any age, adults may experience it a bit differently. Adult women tend to get a different distribution and kind of acne.

Blemishes are often found on the bottom portion of the face including the chin, jawline and around the mouth. These blemishes tend to be deeper and more painful than the normal blackheads and whiteheads experienced by teenagers.

Types of Acne

  • Whiteheads
    • White-appearing dots that occur when sebum (an oily substance produced by the skin to help keep skin moist) becomes trapped in a pore under a thin layer of skin.
  • Blackheads
    • Black-appearing dots resulting from densely packed oxidized oils (lending to the dark color), dead skin cells, and bacteria, but not typically dirt in a hair follicle..
  • Papules, pustules, or nodules
    • Red, swollen, and inflamed lesions resulting from whiteheads or blackheads that become infected; these lesions are often hard and painful.


There is not a one-treatment-fits-all for acne.

Treatments range from skin-care products found at local drug stores to topical creams and antibiotics commonly prescribed to treat severe acne. Many acne treatments are applied to the skin to help kill the bacteria, while others work on reducing oil. Common

topical acne treatments include salicylic acid, sulfur-containing topical creams, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids.

Other types of medicine might be necessary if you have red and swollen types of acne such as cysts and nodules. These treatments include topical antibiotics, antibiotic pills, and birth control pills.

However, if these do not work for your acne or if you experience side effects, there are additional medical treatment options to treat both acne and the scars they leave behind Again, keep in mind that there is often more than one option for the same skin

concern. Choosing which option is best for you requires sitting down with a skin care professional and discussing your skin type and goals.

Laser Technology

Advances in laser technology has created several effective treatment options for treating a variety of skin conditions, including acne scarring. Laser treatments can effectively remove layers of damaged tissues, reduce discoloration, and even encourage the growth of new skin cells. Laser treatments should only be performed by skin-care professionals who have been trained and certified in the treatment procedure.


Phototherapy is an innovative technology that allows the physician to precisely treat conditions such as acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, age and sun spots, and many other skin conditions. The redness and swelling associated with acne is caused by lightsensitive bacteria. The light energy delivered during phototherapy gently heats the upper layers of the skin, exerting antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Phototherapy can also result in reduced sebum production resulting in a less-favorable  environment for acne to develop.

Laser Peel

A laser peel is a quick and effective treatment that uses a special laser to address conditions on the top layer of your skin, such as acne scarring. The treatment removes a thin layer of damaged skin to improve texture and provides superior results because it  can be administered with great precision of depth. The laser beam is scanned over a treatment area to precisely ablate (vaporize) a very thin layer of skin, removing old, damaged tissue.

Removing the top layer eliminates some of the damaged cells. As the skin heals, fresh cells grow and resurface the treated area. The result is healthier-looking skin.

Fractionated Laser

With “fractionated” laser resurfacing, only a portion of the skin is treated in a session.

The treatment uses a laser beam that ablates thousands of pinpoint channels in your skin. Because only a fraction of your skin is directly treated with the laser, the surrounding untreated tissue promotes rapid healing. The skin’s wound healing response creates new collagen, which adds firmness and resilience to the skin. In many cases, this is the fastest, most-effective way to treat acne scars.

Start Treating Acne Quickly

It’s important to start treating acne quickly. Early treatment can lessen the physical effects (scarring) and the emotional effects of acne such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Although acne cannot be cured, it can be controlled. Regardless of the types of treatment you choose, remember to keep your expectations realistic as you determine the best treatment options for your type of acne. As with any medical procedure, there are risks and benefits that should be thoroughly discussed with your skin-care professional prior to any treatment. Specific goals should be discussed and all questions should be answered to your satisfaction.

Daily Regimen

It is important to develop a daily cleansing routine for washing skin, especially skin prone to acne. With so many products and cleansing methods to choose from, it can be difficult to find a combination that works for you. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends:

Gently wash your face and/or acne prone areas with a non-abrasive, mild cleanser that does not contain alcohol.

Wash your face twice a day – once in the morning and once at night.

Use lukewarm water when washing your face and use your fingertips to apply cleanser. Never scrub your face or use hot water-- these can be irritating to your skin.

NEVER squeeze or pick at pimples.

Even though it is tempting, this can potentially cause a deeper infection or even scarring.

Use non-comedogenic cosmetics, cleansers and moisturizers.

Non-comedogenic products use ingredients that won’t clog pores.

Drink plenty of water. The body needs to get rid of waste materials, so hydrate your body from the inside out.

Do not rely on avoiding certain foods to relieve acne.

RAJESH REDDY, M.D., Board Certified Family Medicine, Metroplex Clinic Physicians

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