Charleston Dermatology Blog

Acne Explained: Creating Clarity For Patients With Blemishes, Blackheads and Beyond

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Have pimples left you feeling less than? Have whiteheads and blackheads caused you to hide your head? There’s no shame to be had if you’re experiencing acne. After all, you’re not alone in this struggle! For example, this more than common skin condition affects 9.4% of the global population and 85% of people between ages 12 and 24. 

At Charleston Dermatology, our board-certified doctors can help you overcome challenges and feel comfortable in your skin. For acne patients, this begins by understanding acne and its treatment options.

What is acne?

Acne is a chronic skin condition often appearing on the face, neck, chest, back and/or shoulders. This skin condition occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, forming pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and more severe cysts or nodules.

Common acne symptoms include the following:

  • Comedones: Non-inflammatory acne lesions characterized by clogged pores. These can be open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads).
  • Inflammatory Acne: Red, tender and swollen bumps such as papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.
  • General Pain and Discomfort: Acne can cause physical discomfort, including tenderness, itching, soreness and scarring, when not adequately treated.

What causes acne?

Acne is caused by several factors, starting with the overproduction of sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. When sebum production increases, it can mix with dead skin cells and clog pores. These clogged pores provide an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria, particularly Propionibacterium acnes, which contributes to the development of acne. 

Additionally, hormonal changes, such as those during puberty, menstrual cycles or caused by hormonal disorders, can trigger increased sebum production and the formation of acne. 

Inflammation also plays a role in acne, as the body’s immune response to the clogged pores and bacterial infection results in redness, swelling and acne lesions. 

Other contributing factors may include:

How is acne treated?

Fortunately, numerous treatment options are available to manage and reduce acne breakouts. The treatment choice depends on the acne’s severity and your skin’s unique needs. Our local board-certified dermatologists can help South Carolina patients uncover acne’s causes and develop a personalized plan to promote skin clarity.

Effective strategies for treating acne can include:

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Topicals: Creams, gels or lotions containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur can help reduce mild acne.

Prescription Topicals: Dermatologists may prescribe stronger topical medications, such as retinoids, antibiotics, or combination products, to target acne at its source.

Oral Antibiotics: In cases of moderate to severe acne, oral antibiotics like tetracycline or erythromycin may be prescribed to control bacterial growth and reduce inflammation.

Hormonal Therapy: For hormonal acne, oral contraceptives or anti-androgen medications can regulate hormone levels and improve acne symptoms.

Isotretinoin (Accutane): This potent oral medication is reserved for severe cystic acne that does not respond to other treatments. It reduces oil production, unclogs pores and has long-term remission effects.

Chemical Peels: This treatment involves the application of a chemical solution to the skin, which exfoliates the top layers, promotes cell turnover, and helps unclog pores. Chemical peels can improve the appearance of acne and acne scars.

Light Therapy: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) and laser therapy are light-based treatments that target the bacteria and oil glands responsible for acne. They can reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Lifestyle Modifications: Additionally, making certain changes to your lifestyle can help reduce acne’s causes and symptoms. These simple alterations may include avoiding picking/squeezing blemishes, adopting a healthy and balanced diet, and practicing stress management techniques, such as exercise, meditation and adopting a proper sleep schedule.

It’s important to note that everyone’s skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Consulting with a dermatologist is crucial to determine the most appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

How do I prevent acne scarring?

It may be tempting to pop pimples, but we strongly advise leaving acne alone. Allowing blemishes to heal undisturbed (aside from treatment) is crucial to their healthy healing process and disturbance can lead to scarring. Early intervention and effective acne management can help minimize the risk of scarring.

  • Avoid picking or popping acne lesions.
  • Treat acne promptly to prevent deep inflammation and cyst formation.
  • Seek professional help for severe acne or scarring to explore advanced treatment options like laser resurfacing, micro-needling or dermal fillers.

Acne relief is just one phone call away!

Your first step to acne recovery begins with a call. Our board-certified dermatologists are proud to provide acne relief to all Palmetto State patients with in-office visits and virtual appointments via our Healthy Selfie Acne Telederm Program. Book your appointment today to discover the skin you deserve!

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