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Acne: Brief Version

What is acne?

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when the oil glands of your skin become plugged. More than 90% of teenagers have some acne. With acne you will have blackheads, whiteheads (pimples), or red bumps on your face, neck, and shoulders.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Basic treatment for all acne.
    • Wash your skin twice a day and after exercise. Use a mild soap.
    • Shampoo your hair daily. Keep your hair off your face so that it does not rub against your skin.
    • Avoid picking and squeezing. Picking keeps acne from healing. Squeezing causes bleeding into the skin and blotches that last a month.
  • Treatment for pimples (infected oil glands) or blackheads (the plugs found in blocked-off oil glands).
    • Benzoyl peroxide 5% lotion or gel: This lotion helps to open pimples and unplug blackheads. It also kills bacteria. Apply the lotion once a day at bedtime. Redheads and blonds should apply it every other day for the first 2 weeks. (Caution: benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothing and bedding, so apply it sparingly.)
    • Pimple opening the safe way: Never open a pimple before it has come to a head (has a yellow center). Wash your face and hands first. Use a needle that has been sterilized with rubbing alcohol. Nick the surface of the yellow pimple with the tip of the needle. The pus should run out without squeezing. Wipe away the pus and wash the area with soap and water. Don't "pop" pimples by squeezing.
  • Treatment for red bumps.

    Large red bumps mean the infection has spread beyond the oil gland. If you have several red bumps, you probably also need an antibiotic. Antibiotics come as solutions for the skin or as pills.

Call your doctor during office hours if:

  • The acne has not improved after you have treated it with benzoyl peroxide for 2 months.
  • It looks infected (large, red, tender bumps).
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2012-02-08
Last reviewed: 2017-06-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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