Acne is a skin disease – not something that you just outgrow. It affects 40 to 50 million Americans of all ages, making it the most common skin disorder in the United States.
Acne happens when the body’s hormones cause an overproduction of sebum, or oil, to flow to the skin’s surface. When the excess oil becomes stuck inside a pore, or hair follicle, people can develop different types of acne:
- Blackheads occur when oil and dead skin cells become caught in the follicle. When the oil reaches the skin’s surface and is exposed to air, it oxidizes, or turns dark. Blackheads are usually seen on the nose, chin or forehead. Blackheads don’t mean the skin is dirty, and they cannot be simply washed away.
- Whiteheads are small hard bumps, usually seen on the face. They resemble pimples, but usually don’t show the same inflammation or redness that pimples do.
- Pimples are whitish or pink bumps that have fluid or oil in them. They are often seen on the face, but may also show up on the back or shoulders. They may swell up and be sore to the touch.
- Cysts and nodules are larger lumps below the skin’s surface. These lumps, also known as nodulocystic acne, affect the sebaceous glands that produce the skin’s oil. If not treated, cystic acne can cause scarring.