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Doctor's Terms

  • Comedone: fancy medical term for an acne spot.
  • Sebum: oil in the skin. Acne is marked by excessive amounts of sebum.

Information And Treatment

Acne is marked by inflamed, red, and sometimes pus-filled mounds that emerge on your face, back, chest, and shoulders. While acne is very common in teenagers, who are undergoing hormonal changes, adults suffer from acne too.

All adults retain a protective layer of oil that coats skin and hair (called sebum). When these oils are secreted in excess, they clog your pores. Add to the mix a bacteria known as P. acnes that provokes the immune system and—voila—you're looking at a recipe for acne.

Heredity and hormones increase the production of oils in your skin, but it's the latter that explains why 12 percent of adult women continue to experience breakouts whereas the same is true for just 3 percent of men. For that, ladies, you can thank childbirth and other hormone-increasing factors, like your period and birth control pills, for oilier skin—and acne.

There are many different types of acne.

  • Comedones are the classic blackhead and whitehead pimples. They appear most often on the face and shoulders. Blackheads look somewhat like an oversized pore. They darken when dead skin cells become stuck in the pore opening. Whiteheads are a closed version of pimples. Since dead skin cells can't penetrate the pore, they form a white-ish bump instead.
  • Papules are small, inflamed bumps without pus.
  • Pustules are small, inflamed bumps with a notably red base. These may contain pus.
  • Nodules are large bumps located deep within your skin. They are often painful.
  • Cysts are a step worse than nodules. The large bumps are also located deep within the skin, but these painful pimples may contain pus and are more likely to leave scars in their wake.

Age range: Almost all teens—75 to 95 percent—will get acne. It also commonly afflicts women during pregnancy and menopause. However, acne knows no age—it can occur at any time.