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Your Acne Questions Answered

Most of us have suffered from acne at some point in our lives, or are still battling it today. Because it’s so common, there are countless rumors swirling around about how to get rid of acne, but if you follow all the advice you hear, you’ll probably wind up with less time in your days, less money in your pocket, and the same old acne. Finding out the actual facts can put you on the fast track toward clearer skin, so today, we’re taking on some of the most common questions our board-certified dermatologists and physician assistants hear about acne.

Your Acne Questions AnsweredWhy does acne affect some people but not others?

There’s not a solitary cause of acne. In some patients it’s caused by hormones which are causing their skin to produce too much pore-clogging sebum (or oil), in others it’s caused by certain bacteria, in others it’s caused by too many dead skin cells or other debris clogging the pores, and in many patients, it’s a combination of multiple factors. Everyone’s skin and hormone production is unique, so if you have any one of the issues above, you’re more likely to develop acne.

What causes acne to leave scars?

Not all acne lesions (or pimples) will leave a scar. To be brief, acne scars form when tissue is damaged. This could happen from the inflammation in certain types of acne, or it could happen from popping or picking at a pimple. And unfortunately, some patients are simply more prone to scarring than others. Your best bet to minimize future scarring is to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for acne treatments, and if you already have scars, we can improve their appearance through a combination of microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing, or potentially surgery in some cases, which can involve punch grafting, fillers, fat transfer, or other techniques.

Why do some pimples look different than others?

The appearance of the pimples you develop are determined by many factors, but it all starts with the causes and type of your acne. There are generally four types of acne lesions. Blackheads are not quite acne yet – they form when sebum or other debris is clogging the pore. Whiteheads are small bumps with a white dot in the middle, and they form when sebum has fully blocked the pore and inflammation has begun. Nodules and cysts both appear as larger round bumps beneath the skin. Both are highly inflamed and are likely to cause scarring, but cysts are pus-filled while nodules are not.

Does regular exercise help or hurt acne?

It can actually be a little of both, depending on your habits. Exercise can be great for your skin by promoting a healthy blood flow, but the sweat can irritate your skin and clog pores, ultimately leading to acne. Wearing occlusive clothing while exercising (like cotton T shirts or headbands), makes the problem worse. It is important to change into dry clothing as rapidly as possible after exercise even if showers are unavailable.

What treatment options are available for acne?

Your acne treatment will depend on what’s causing your acne and the types of pimples you’re seeing. If your acne is primarily bacterial, you may be prescribed antibiotics for acne, and we may recommend Isolaz™, a procedure which uses light therapy to kill these bacteria while also applying suction to unclog pores. In other cases, we can create a customized topical compound based on your specific needs, and our providers may also recommend certain ingredients to look for in your skincare products, like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If you have hormonal acne, there are a number of medications we can prescribe, potentially alongside laser treatments. Occasionally, isotretinoin may be used for acne which is unresponsive to other therapies.

Are there any home remedies which actually do work?

While some home remedies are entirely false, others do have a grain of truth. Foods generally do not have an impact on acne, however dairy in women has been shown to make acne worse. This is presumably due to hormones present in milk, so drinking organic milk should counter this issue. “Oil-free” skincare products can often help, and it’s certainly true that you should remove any makeup before you go to bed and should wash your pillowcase regularly. But instead of making your way down the acne aisle in the drug store and trying every product in sight, it’s best to cut to the chase and visit a dermatologist who can examine your skin and make educated and experienced recommendations based on the type of your acne.

When it comes to acne, here’s the bottom line:  ask a dermatologist for help. Some people have been fortunate enough to find a combination of skincare products which resolves their acne, but without a dermatologist it’s just an expensive guessing game, and many people with acne simply won’t see relief (or will even see their symptoms worsen) with over-the-counter products alone and will need other treatments or medications. It’s a more complex and misunderstood condition than most patients realize, and most likely, simply finding the right cleanser at a drug store won’t be able to help you love your skin again. To get started toward clearer skin, schedule an appointment at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta. Or, for more skin care tips as well as special offers and upcoming events, join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.