UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
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During puberty, both boys and girls may develop acne (AKA zits, pimples, blackheads, whiteheads). In fact, about 8 in 10 preteens and teens have acne. Acne isn't pleasant, but understanding what's going on can help you feel better, and possibly find ways to help reduce breakouts. Let's look under the microscope.
The Anatomy of Acne
- Skin is covered with tiny holes called hair follicles, or pores. Follicles contain oil glands, called sebaceous glands.
- These glands make oil, called sebum, that keeps your hair and skin moisturized.
- During puberty, hormones can cause the skin to make too much oil, and it can get stuck together with cells inside the pore, and with outside dirt or oil. This can cause a sticky plug in the pore, which becomes an acne a.k.a, pimple, zit, blackhead.
- Genetics plays a role, too. If your parent had acne as a teen, it's likely that you will, too.
Myths About Acne
- Acne is not caused by eating greasy foods like French fries or pizza, or by eating chocolate.
- Scrubbing the skin does not stop acne. It can even make the problem worse. Clean your skin regularly and after heavy workouts. Just remember, don't over scrub.
- Wearing makeup doesn't necessarily cause acne. Choose makeup carefully. All makeup should be oil-free so it doesn't clog up your pores. However, it does help to clean your face regularly to keep makeup from clogging pores, particularly if you are physically active.
- Stress does not cause acne.
Ways to Help, or Treat, Acne
- Hormones have a lot to do with acne (and you can't help those!). But, you can help prevent oil buildup by washing your face morning and evening with warm water and mild cleanser. Also, wash your face after exercising.
- Keep your hands away from your face. The oils and dirt from your hands can aggravate breakouts. Never pick or try to pop pimples—it can lead to scarring.
- Wash your hair regularly, to minimize oil from hair getting on your face.
- There are a lot of acne treatments available at your drug store. These creams, washes, and soaps work in different ways such as reducing oil production or helping to break down blackheads or whiteheads. You may have to try several to get the one that works best for you.
- When in doubt, get help from the experts. Doctors who specialize in skin care, called dermatologists, can help—especially if your acne is severe. Pediatricians and family doctors can help with milder cases. Or, get more info from the online links provided by BAM.
- Division of Population Health/School Health Branch
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, Northeast, Mailstop K-27
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO