Zits, blemishes, spots, pimples – all are terms for a common, often uncomfortable, skin condition: acne. 
People often get acne during puberty, when hormonal changes cause the oil-producing glands under the skin (sebaceous glands) to become more active. Though acne is most common from ages 11 to 30, some people (especially women) don’t develop acne until later in life.


Acne occurs when pores become clogged with oil. It can appear during childhood or adulthood, and there are many types of acne, including:

  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Papules (small, tender pink bumps)
  • Pustules (red bumps with a tip of white)
  • Nodules
  • Cysts

Acne can occur anywhere on the body, but it usually appears on the face, neck, shoulders, upper back and chest. It may not be painful, but it can stop you from feeling your best.

Treatment Options

There are a variety of treatment options for acne. The goal is to minimize your chances of scarring and reduce the number of pimples, helping improve your appearance – and helping you feel your best.

Topical treatments are applied directly to the skin. They include:

  • Antimicrobials, such as benzoyl peroxide, topical erythromycin, topical clindamycin and topical dapsone
  • Retinoids, such as RetinA, Differin, adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin
  • Azeleic acid
  • Sodium sulfacetamide 

Oral treatments are taken by mouth. They include:

  • Antibiotics, such as doxycycline, minocycline, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or erythromycin, are usually reserved for moderate to severe acne.
  • Spironolactone, which targets hormones that can lead to acne, is only used in adult women with cystic acne. 
  • Isotretinoin (previously referred to by the brand name Accutane) can help prevent bad scarring. But because it can cause serious side effects, it’s only used for severe acne that doesn’t respond to other treatments. 

Procedural treatments are sometimes used together with topical and oral treatments. They include: 

  • Salicylic acid peels 
  • Pyruvic acid peels
  • Photodynamic therapy

Cosmetic skin procedures can minimize acne scars. They include:

  • Dermabrasion
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser and radiofrequency resurfacing

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