Acne vulgaris often appears as red bumps, frequently on the facial area. It is commonly known as acne, pimples, zits, whiteheads, or blackheads. Whiteheads and blackheads are also known as comedones, which occur when oil and dead skin cells clog the opening of a hair follicle. Blackheads have a wide opening with a black hue. Whiteheads have a nearly closed opening with no hue.
A dermatologist can diagnose the severity of a patient’s acne. Mild acne vulgaris is classified as less than 20 comedones, or less than 30 total instances of lesions. Moderate acne is anywhere from 20 to 100 comedones, or a total of 30 to 125 lesions. If a person has severe acne, they have more than 100 comedones, or more than 125 total lesions.
Acne is fairly easy to diagnose. One may notice small, raised lumps on the skin that may be tender, red, or have pus at the tip. A person may have larger solid and painful bumps, as well. Lumps filled with pus that are beneath the surface of the skin are called cysts. These may lead to infection and scarring.
Human skin has many tiny hair follicles, or a structure of the skin that grows hair. These follicles can become clogged with the natural oil of the skin, called sebum. Clogging can occur due to an overproduction of sebum. The follicles can also be clogged with dead skin cells. When the hair follicle becomes clogged, acne vulgaris can form.
There are a few risk factors that may increase the likelihood of a person developing acne. Teenagers are more susceptible to it, due to hormonal changes that can increase the production of sebum. Women, particularly pregnant women, are also more susceptible to acne. A person using cosmetics, or any other oily or greasy substance, is also more likely to have acne breakouts.
For most mild cases of acne vulgaris, some basic skin care can help prevent breakouts. The skin can be gently washed with a mild cleanser rather than a harsh astringent or facial scrub. Some over-the-counter acne products can help treat oily skin. Products most likely to help will include salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
If over-the-counter products are not enough to control breakouts of acne, a dermatologist can write a prescription for stronger medications. Some options include tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene. These are applied topically to the skin. Oral medications, such as antibiotics or isotretinoin, may also help.
Some patients may find that laser therapy helps heal acne vulgaris. Laser therapy may help decrease the production of sebum, as well as reduce inflammation. A dermatologist may also recommend microdermabrasion or a chemical peel to control acne. These techniques help to resurface the skin.