UT University Health Services


What is acne?

Acne is a skin problem. It happens when the skin gets clogged with oil, which causes pimples.

What is the cause?

Most teenagers get acne. During these years, hormones cause more body hair to grow and the skin gets oilier. The skin pores (where the hairs grow out) sometimes get clogged with oil and bacteria.

What are the symptoms?

You may have:

  • blackheads (plugged oil glands with black tips)
  • whiteheads (pimples)
  • red bumps that may hurt or be filled with pus.

In very bad cases, you may get a cyst. A cyst is a bump that forms under the skin. It is larger than a pimple.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will check your skin for pimples, blackheads, or cysts. Your provider may ask:

  • How long have you had the problem?
  • What treatments have you have tried? How well did they work?
  • How do you care for your skin?

How is it treated?

Your healthcare provider may give you:

  • soaps or lotions
  • gel to dry up the acne
  • lotion or gel with an antibiotic in it to put on your skin in the places where you get acne
  • skin creams with Retin-A to prevent pimples
  • antibiotic pills.

Sometimes you will need to use more than 1 medicine at a time to treat the acne.

Your provider may also inject large cysts with medicine. This will help keep you from getting scars.

For very bad cases, your provider may give you a medicine called isotretinoin. Women must be careful when taking this medicine. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, do not take isotretinoin. It can hurt the baby if you take it while you are pregnant or even a month or 2 before you get pregnant.

Over the Counter Medications for Acne

  • Use only as directed on the package, unless your healthcare provider instructs you to do otherwise.
  • OTCs may interact with other medications or be potentially harmful if you have certain medical conditions. Talk to your pharmacist about options that are right for you.

Benzoyl Peroxide gell or lotion
Start with low strength (2.5% or 5%) to avoid skin irritation. Move up to a higher strength (5% or 10%) after several weeks if no improvement. Follow manufacturer directions and discontinue if severe skin irritation develops.

Forty Acres Pharmacy

The Forty Acres Pharmacy, located in the SSB 1.110 and operated by the UT College of Pharmacy, sells a wide variety of OTC medications and treatments. Ask our pharmacists to help you choose appropriate medications or products for your symptoms.

When will the acne get better?

With treatment you will probably stop getting whiteheads after 4 to 6 weeks. You may have to take your medicine for several months. For more serious cases, you may have to take your medicine for several years.

If you take antibiotics, after a while your healthcare provider may ask you to stop taking them. He or she may want to see how you do without them for several weeks to see if you still need them.

If you are a woman, acne may get worse each month around the time that you have your period.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow your healthcare provider's advice. It's also a good idea to:

  • Wash your face 1 to 2 times a day with a gentle soap like Cetaphil or Purpose. Change your washcloth every day. Bacteria can grow on damp cloth.
  • Wash your hands often. Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
  • Do not squeeze, pick, scratch, or rub your pimples. You may spread infection and get scars.
  • Shampoo your hair at least twice a week. Keep your hair away from your face during the day and at night while you sleep.
  • Wash as soon as you can after you exercise.
  • If certain foods seem to make your acne worse, do not eat those foods.
  • Try not to work in hot kitchens where greasy foods are cooked.
  • Try not to get sunburned.
  • Try not to become stressed. Take some quiet time, get exercise, or talk to a counselor if needed.
  • Keep your follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider. Keep a record of the medicines you have tried. Write down how they have worked. Let your provider know if your medicine isn't working. Don't give up. Keep working with your provider until you find a way to keep your skin clear.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
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.
© 2018 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

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