Acne breakouts can happen anywhere on your skin. The most common sites include the face and neck, shoulders, back, and chest.
Your skin has tiny holes called pores that can become blocked by oil, bacteria, dead skin cells, and dirt. When this occurs, you may develop a pimple, sometimes also called a zit or blemish.
While acne doesn’t pose a serious risk to your overall health, it can still be painful, particularly if you have severe acne. Over time, acne might also cause scarring.
There’s no denying that acne can contribute to emotional distress. Acne and acne scars on your face and other visible body locations can affect self-esteem and self-confidence.
If you live with acne, know that it’s a common condition.
Keep in mind, too, that acne is very treatable. A number of effective treatments exist, so you have options for reducing the number of pimples you get and minimizing your chances of scarring.
Types of Acne
Acne causes several types of lesions, or pimples. Doctors refer to enlarged or plugged hair follicles as comedones. Types of acne include:
- Whiteheads: Plugged hair follicles that stay beneath the skin and produce a white bump.
- Blackheads: Plugged follicles that reach the surface of the skin and open up. They look black on the skin surface because the air discolors the sebum, not because they are dirty.
- Papules: Inflamed lesions that usually appear as small, pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to the touch.
- Pustules or pimples: Papules topped by white or yellow pus-filled lesions that may be red at the base.
- Nodules: Large, painful solid lesions that are lodged deep within the skin.
- Severe nodular acne (sometimes called cystic acne): Deep, painful, pus-filled lesions.
Causes of Acne
Doctors and researchers believe that one or more of the following can lead to the development of acne:
- Excess or high production of oil in the pore.
- Buildup of dead skin cells in the pore.
- Growth of bacteria in the pore.
The following factors may increase your risk for developing acne:
- Hormones. An increase in androgens, which are male sex hormones, may lead to acne. These increase in both boys and girls normally during puberty and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy can also cause acne.
- Family history. Researchers believe that you may be more likely to get acne if your parents had acne.
- Medications. Certain medications, such as medications that contain hormones, corticosteroids, and lithium, can cause acne.
- Age. People of all ages can get acne, but it is more common in teens.
The following do not cause acne, but may make it worse.
- Diet. Some studies show that eating certain foods may make acne worse. Researchers are continuing to study the role of diet as a cause of acne.
- Pressure from sports helmets, tight clothes, or backpacks.
- Environmental irritants, such as pollution and high humidity.
- Squeezing or picking at blemishes.
- Scrubbing your skin too hard.