Common acne, known medically as Acne Vulgaris, is generally caused by hormonal changes in the body, and its onset usually can be found in teenage years when puberty rears its head. Acne is directly attributed to the rise of androgen hormone levels. The production of these hormones rise when a child begins puberty, and is the reason much acne is prevalent in adolescence. As androgen levels rise, the oil glands sitting directly underneath the skin enlarge and produce increased levels of oil, also known as sebum. When pores are filled with excessive sebum, it can cause surrounding skin cells’ walls to rupture and create a breeding ground of P. acnes bacteria. As the sebum attempts to push out of the pore, it can attach to this infectious bacteria and dead skin cells, causing a blockage that begins the formation of a pimple. According to Medical News Today, dermatologists purport that almost three quarters of 11 to 30-year-olds will deal with acne at some point, but acne breakouts can continue on into adulthood, and have been observed in patients in their fifties.
Sunscreen: "Sun exposure during an active breakout can lead to darkening of inflammatory lesions, prolonging their appearance on your skin and making them harder to fade over time," says Dr. Shereene Idriss from Union Square Dermatology, which means it's important to lather on the sunscreen daily — even when it's cloudy. And don't worry about breaking out from a pore-clogging sunscreen; the latest formulas are more innovative and acne-friendly than ever. Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a top derm-approved favorite. It contains niacinamide, which is an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce redness.
The spots that linger after a pimple has healed are caused by inflammation that has disrupted the skin's natural healing process. "When your skin is opened up (like when you pop a pimple) and then closes back together, you can get abnormal pigmentation, texture, and tone that looks different from the rest of your skin. Sometimes the broken blood vessels that remain after an acne lesion fades can result in a mark," says Dr. Bowe. For a number of people who are able to refrain from picking, inflamed pimples or blemishes can still leave a dark brown or red mark — but these naturally fade over the course of a few months, notes dermatologist Heather C. Woolery-Lloyd, MD.
Glycolic Acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid and an exfoliating ingredient that targets both acne and wrinkles at the same time. "The same way it helps acne, it helps wrinkles—by removing dead cells on surface. If you have effective exfoliation, you're stimulating collagen and hyaluronic acid," Dr. Schultz explains. This will help improve skin's texture and reduce fine lines and wrinkles while also clearing up breakouts.
Not for those with moderate to severe acne: Facials are effective in removing comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), but aren’t for those with many pimples, or inflammatory acne. Exfoliants help reduce comedones, but they frequently irritate pimples — causing them to become more inflamed and noticeable. Also, extracting inflammatory acne, like nodules and cysts, can be very challenging and when done improperly, can lead to scarring or further inflammation.
What to know about hormonal imbalances While it is natural to experience hormonal imbalances at certain times in life, such as puberty, menopause, and pregnancy, some hormonal changes are related to underlying medical conditions. This article looks at the causes and symptoms of hormonal imbalances in men and women, as well as treatment and home remedies. Read now
Yes, it’s another pricey SkinCeuticals serum, but dermatologists absolutely love their products for treating acne marks. You’ll get more bang for your buck with the inclusion of glycolic and lactic acids, two alpha-hydroxy acids that Avram says help fade marks by exfoliating the top surface of the skin. Nagler says “vitamin C is helpful as an adjunct in preventing free radical damage, which helps with pigmentation.” It’s also worth investing in a high-quality serum since, according to Nagler, vitamin C isn’t stable — and is therefore less effective — in some other products.
The best way to fix them: Since they're more closely related to bacteria than your hormones or a lack of exfoliation, papular pustules require a different plan of attack entirely. "Inflammatory acne types really respond to antibiotics, either topical or systemic," says Dr. Hale. These, of course, require a trip to your dermatologist. To tide you over, you could also try applying hydrocortisone cream, which temporarily takes down redness and swelling. But in the long run, it won't do much to make these disappear completely or keep them from popping up again.
Treating acne requires patience and perseverance. Any of the treatments listed above may take two or three months to start working (even isotretinoin). Unless there are side effects such as excessive dryness or allergy, it is important to give each regimen or drug enough time to work before giving up on it and moving on to other methods. Using modern methods, doctors can help clear up the skin of just about everyone.

Facials can be an effective way to get rid of non-inflammatory or comedonal acne (whiteheads and blackheads). Comedones occur when pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Facial exfoliation takes off the top layer of skin, which unclogs pores and helps oil flow naturally through the follicles, thus avoiding future breakouts. Extractions remove the existing comedones, which both helps your appearance and also lessens the likelihood developing a pimple (which occurs when a comedone becomes inflamed).
Over-the-counter retinol or vitamin A can also help. Anolik says retinols can be incredibly effective, especially higher-strength prescription retinoids: “They’re the gold standard in acne and aging treatments.” The prescription versions, from Tazorac to Differin, are usually covered by insurance in the case of acne. Vitamin C can also treat pores and exfoliate; Tammy Fender’s System ($165, tammyfender.com) comes with a vitamin C toner.
"Hyperpigmentation is an increase of melanin, which is the substance that colors the skin," says Dr. Sobel. Hyperpigmentation often clears up on its own. However if you want to speed up the process, you can use topical treatments with ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and kojic acid, which can help brighten skin overall. We like Sunday Riley Sleeping Night Oil ($105, sephora.com) and InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum ($17, amazon.com). The most important thing is to stay out of the sun to keep the dark spots from getting even deeper in color.
Yes. Although rosacea has a variable course and is not predictable in everyone, it gradually worsens with age, especially if untreated. In small studies, many rosacea sufferers have reported that without treatment their condition had advanced from early to middle stage within a year. With good therapy, it is possible to prevent progression of rosacea.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
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