(Pimples; Blackheads; Whiteheads; Acne Vulgaris)
How to Say It: AK-nee
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Acne is a common condition where small bumps form on the skin. The bumps are called blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, pustules, and cysts. They are most common on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders.
Acne is caused when pores in the skin are clogged with oil (called sebum) and dead skin cells.
Blackheads are clogs that reach the skin's surface. Whiteheads are clogs that stay beneath the surface of the skin.
Bacteria can also become trapped in pores and cause an infection. This may cause small red bumps, pimples, and cysts.
Acne is most common in teenagers. However, adults and children can have it too. Things that may raise the risk are:
Acne symptoms vary from person to person. They can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may be:
The doctor can make a diagnosis based on a physical exam. People with severe acne may need to see a skin doctor.
Treatment goals are to reduce the acne and treat infection. A combination of treatments works best. Options are:
Acne may be treated with:
Procedures to treat acne may be:
Good skin care can help reduce irritation of acne. This includes gentle washing and using skin products that do not clog the pores.
It can be hard to prevent acne. For some, reducing emotional stress may help.
American Skin Association
American Academy of Dermatology
Canadian Dermatology Association
Acne. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acne. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Acne. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/acne. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Acne: overview. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/acne. Accessed February 17, 2021.
Habeshian KA, Cohen BA. Current issues in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Pediatrics. 2020;145(Suppl 2):S225-S230.
Last reviewed Januray 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated: 2/17/2021