Acne, often referred to as blemishes or spots, is a disorder of the hair follicles and oil glands (sebaceous glands) in the skin and is actually the most common reason people visit dermatologists (skin care doctors). The blemishes you see are actually follicles that have become blocked and inflamed. One reason that acne occurs is because of increased hormonal activity — as certain hormones increase, so do the levels of sebum, which is an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands. Sebum and other substances can block the opening of the hair follicle, which may allow the growth of bacteria and eventually lead to blemishes.
You may have heard that blemishes are caused by things you eat such as chocolate or greasy foods, or that you can make blemishes better by scrubbing and using strong facial cleansers. But these are myths. The foods you eat don't cause acne although a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is good for your whole body, including your skin. Acne is not caused by dirt, so excessive scrubbing using very hot water or strong cleansers won't help. In fact, it can actually make blemishes worse and more obvious.
Also, you may notice that acne tends to leave behind dark or red marks on your skin. And, in people of colour, especially those with acne prone skin that is extra-sensitive, this condition is often worse. Dermatologists often call these marks post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). They develop as a result of a previously existing blemish. They can also occur because of certain acne medications or because of excessive cleansing or scrubbing of the skin. It's very important for people of color to be aware of the risk of developing PIH after acne blemishes have gone away. Extra-gentle daily skin care is needed to avoid irritation that can lead to hyperpigmented marks.
Most doctors advise their patients with acne to use a very gentle, moisture-rich cleanser plus a non-oily moisturizer. You may see these moisturizers referred to as "non-comedogenic", which means they won't clog your pores. Many dermatologists can recommend prescription and over-the-counter products to treat acne. While they are effective, some can be irritating and cause excessive drying of your skin. Choosing gentle cleansers, oil-free moisturizers, or treatments that are not excessively drying is important for acne-prone skin.
If you experience acne, it is important that you cleanse, moisturize, and treat your skin properly. AVEENO® offers a line of products designed for acne-prone skin, called AVEENO® Clear Complexion. This face care line helps keep skin clear and even-looking and is formulated with natural soy and a dermatologist-recommended blemish-fighting ingredient.
Source: Gollnick H, Cunliffe W, Berson D, et al. Management of acne. A report from a global alliance to improve outcomes in acne. J Amer Acad Dermatol 2003;49:S1-38.