Acne is an extremely common skin condition where the pores become clogged with dead skin cells and oil. Acne is most common in teenagers going through puberty, but it can flare up at any point in life. The cause and type of acne can determine the best treatment for you.

Symptoms of Acne

Acne blemishes can appear as:

  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Papules
  • Pustules
  • Cysts
  • Nodules

Depending on the type of blemishes you have, you could experience inflammation, redness, or tenderness. The most common where acne occurs are the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, upper arms, or buttocks. 

Common Causes of Acne

Acne is primarily caused by buildup of excess oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, and hormones. Normally, dead skin cells are shed at the surface of the pore, but excess oil can cause the skin cells to stick together and become trapped inside the pore. For this reason, acne most commonly appears on areas with more oil glands.

Certain factors that have been known to make acne worse, including:

  • Hormones. Acne can worsen during puberty when the level of androgen, a hormone present in both male and female bodies, increases. Other factors that lead to hormone fluctuation, such as pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives, can cause or exacerbate acne.
  • Stress. Stress can be linked to the severity of your acne.
  • Diet. Some studies have indicated that certain foods, including carbohydrate rich foods, can worsen acne.
  • Medications. Certain medications can trigger or aggravate acne.

Acne Treatment

Your dermatologist may recommend a variety of over-the-counter or prescription medications to help treat acne. 

Topical treatment

  • Benzoyl peroxide comes in a cream, lotion, wash, or gel that works to destroy the bacteria associated with acne.
  • Salicylic acid can come in a lotion, cream, or pad that works to unclog pores.
  • Retinoids decrease the swelling and inflammation, but a prescription is typically needed.


  • Topical or oral antibiotics can be prescribed to kill the skin bacteria and reduce redness.
  • Medication that affects your hormones, like birth control pills, can be prescribed to help acne.
  • Accutane is in the same class of drugs as retinoids, but it is taken orally and is used to treat severe cystic acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments.

In-Office Treatment

  • Laser or light therapies can reduce the bacteria on your skin and work to improve acne.
  • Chemical peels can treat blackheads and papules and encourage the sloughing of dead skin cells.
  • Your dermatologist may recommend other treatments including facials specifically for acne or extractions of whiteheads or blackheads.

Schedule an appointment at Mystic Valley Dermatology Associates to find a treatment plan designed for you.