Acne Basics

What causes acne?

  • 1
    Too Much Oil

    Your skin has tiny glands called 'sebaceous glands' that produce oil. When those glands produce too much oil, it can result in acne.

  • 2
    Bacteria Build-Ups

    P. Acnes’ is a type of bacteria that’s present on most people’s skin, even those without acne, but certain specific strains of it are known to cause acne.

  • 3
    Clogged Pores

    Sometimes our pores can get clogged with dead skin and other debris. Luckily, washing and exfoliating your skin can do a lot to stop this!

  • 4

    This one’s a bit tricky because doctors don’t fully understand it yet; however, what we do know is that inflammation in the skin is often tied to acne.


First of all, don’t be worried about talking to a doctor about something like acne. Dermatologists have talked to countless teens dealing with the exact same thing you are. You should feel comfortable speaking to a dermatologist no matter the severity of your acne, but here are a few cases where you should definitely reach out:

Scarring. Acne can leave behind scar tissue, but just because it’s formed doesn’t mean the damage is done. Seeing a doctor gives you an opportunity to reduce or prevent scarring altogether, and laser therapy procedures can help too.

Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments aren’t working. While benzoyl peroxide and other OTC products don’t fix everything with a snap of the fingers, you should see results over time. If it’s been a few months and your progress is nada, a dermatologist can tell you about treatments that might be better for you.

Acne in females who are considering an oral contraceptive. Dermatologists often prescribe oral contraceptives for acne in women and they can educate you on the ways that your body might be affecting the acne.

Self-esteem. Between homework, homecoming, and parents pestering you about homework and homecoming, being a teenager can already be stressful enough. If acne is weighing on your emotions, talk to someone.

If you do decide to go see a dermatologist, one important thing to do is confirm their experience and that they are Board certified—not all are, so it’s best to double-check!

Even if you’re a shopaholic, buying acne products isn’t necessarily going to be a satisfying form of retail therapy. However, it’s just as important to do your research and figure out what’s best for you. Just like those high-top sneakers you got on sale last month, what works for you might not work for your best friend.

It’s important to know that there isn’t one best product for anyone, no matter what the star-studded infomercials might suggest. Every case is different, and seeing a dermatologist is important to find which product is right for you.

Hygiene can be such a drag, taking precious minutes away from your snooze-button-hitting time every morning—but it’s also the final front in the battle against acne.

Dermatologists not only agree on the importance of face-washing, but they agree on the best way to do it: gently. Washing it too hard can irritate the skin, causing more breakouts. That’s the worst of both worlds. More acne and less sleep? No, thank you!

Make sure that the cleanser you choose is mild —consult your dermatologist if you’d like a recommendation—and wash with clean hands or a very soft facial cloth. If you’d like a little extra firepower, some topical medications are available, but they should only be considered a supplement, never a replacement, for face washing.

Regarding how often you should wash your face, most dermatologists recommend once or twice daily depending on your skin type and condition. No need to do it more than that, as over washing can also make acne worse.

Just like all your favorite accessories, acne comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. One of the most popular? Blackheads.

Unlike whiteheads, blackheads remain open at the tip so that the oil and bacteria in your pore can react with the open air, which oxidizes them and changes them to those black dots that tend to hang out all over your nose. Blackheads can take some time to get rid of, but they don’t get inflamed like other acne. Still, they can still be tough to treat and prevent, so check out the tips below for a daily regimen that will help keep them in check:

  • Gently wash your face twice a day using only mild cleansers. Stay away from fragrant soaps and cleansers. Many of them dry out and irritate your skin, and there’s no point in smelling like a vanilla breeze if you feel like pepperoni sandpaper.
  • If you have a lot of blackheads, make sure to exfoliate every day or every other day to remove dead skin and unclog your pores. Do this with gentle scrubs and wash with your clean hands instead of a rough washcloth, as one may cause further irritation.
  • Check your makeup cabinet to double-check that none of your cosmetics are oil-based. These can clog your pores and cause blackheads.
  • Eat your fruits and veggies! Some good ones to look out for are carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale, as they have beta-carotene, an antioxidant that works to prevent blackhead breakouts.
  • As always, no touching! Your face is a work of art, and just like the Mona Lisa, you’re grubby hands are gonna mess it up. Touching and picking and squeezing can add unwanted oil to your skin as well as further irritate the blackheads.

If you’re having a particularly hard time, look into topical ointments containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or other OTCs such as azelaic acid which can all clear out your pores and get rid of those blackheads.


71% of teenagers with acne reported lower self-confidence or shyness.

If you're embarrassed by your acne, does that insecurity ever affect your performance at school?

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