Why Do People Develop Acne?

Patients frequently ask their dermatologists why acne develops and if there is a way to prevent it.  Unfortunately, acne is an extremely common disease that usually affects adolescents. Although most cases resolve by the time the patient reaches 25 years of age, acne may persist in adulthood.  Some cases may even begin or worsen during adulthood.


What is Acne?  What Causes Acne?


Acne is an inflammatory condition that usually occurs on the face, but may also be seen on the chest, back or other parts of the body.  Multiple factors are thought to cause or have an effect on the severity of acne.  Heredity, the skin’s oil production and natural bacteria, and even skin care products may play a role.  A well-known controversial theory is that certain foods, namely dairy products and chocolate, contribute to acne.  There have been a few studies showing this to be true, but most studies prove this to be false.  

Frequently, young adults have a new onset of acne due to using products that are too heavy for their skin.  This commonly occurs when a young lady, thinking she is being wise to begin an anti-aging regimen, uses a product that is in fact formulated for much older skin.  When this is the cause of adult onset acne, it may be reversed by simply changing to a more appropriate skin care regimen.


How is Acne Treated?


Some basic steps that may help mild cases of acne include a daily skin care regimen with non-comedogenic products, and the use of over-the-counter acne products.

For more resistant or severe cases, prescription medications may help.  Dermatologists have a large armamentarium of acne treatments at their disposal including both topical and oral medications.  Moderate to severe cases are usually treated with a combination of an oral antibiotic and some topical products.


Are There Any New Treatments For Acne?


One new device to treat stubborn acne, is the Isolaz®.  It can be thought of as a combination of microdermabrasion and a light treatment.  This painless treatment helps to clear acne quickly, and can even temporarily reduce oil production.   Another device called the BLU-U®, or blue light treatment, is also an excellent, easy acne therapy.  The BLU-U® is a light illuminator that emits a specific wavelength of light that has been proven to kill acne-causing bacteria.  Both of these treatments need to be repeated and work for all skin types.


A new, revolutionary treatment for acne is called photodynamic therapy.  This therapy treats acne by shrinking oil glands and minimizing acne-causing bacteria.  Treatments are performed by first applying a photosensitizing medication called Levulan® to the skin.  The patient is then asked to wait while the medication is absorbed into the target areas.  Next, the skin is washed and the patient is placed in front of the BLU-U® light.  This treatment is repeated every couple of weeks until the patient is break-out free.  These treatments even help to soften the look of some acne scars.  This therapy has been described as a “topical Accutane®“, having a similar outcome without the systemic side effects and risks.


What Removes Acne Scars?


Acne scarring may be treated only after the patient’s breakouts are under control.  Acne scars fall under several categories including ice-pick scars (deep and narrow), boxcar scars (shallow and wide), and rolling scars (indented-appearing larger areas of skin).  Just as there are different types of acne scars, there are different treatments for each category of scar.  Treatments include specific types of peels, resurfacing laser therapies, Portrait®, and other surgical techniques.  Some acne scars may even be filled with a product such as Juvederm® or Restylane®.  No matter what type of acne scarring someone has, it is best to get their acne under control prior to scar treatment.