Answers FAQ

Acne (Pimples) FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Take the Acne (Pimples) Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
Test your Knowledge!

Q:Acne is the result of an allergy. True or False?

A:False. Acne is a disease that affects the skin's oil glands.

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Q:There are many different kinds of pimples that can be seen with acne. True or False?

A:True. There are many types of pimples. The most common types are:
Whiteheads (comedones): These are pimples that stay under the surface of the skin
Blackheads: These pimples rise to the skin's surface and look black
Papules: These are small pink bumps that can be tender
Pustules: These pimples are red at the bottom and have pus on top
Nodules: These are large, painful, solid pimples that are deep in the skin
Cysts: These deep, painful, pus-filled pimples can cause scars

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Q:Why do pimples form?

A:Dead skin, oil, and bacteria. Pimples form when dead skin cells mix with excess oil (sebum). This mixture plugs the pore, causing swelling. Bacteria can grow in the mix and lead to infection and pus.

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Q:Greasy, fried foods make acne worse. True or False?

A:False. Parents often tell teens to avoid pizza, chocolate, greasy and fried foods, and junk food. While these foods may not be good for overall health, they don't cause acne or make it worse.

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Q:Acne is the most common disease of the skin. True or False?

A:True. Acne is the most common skin disease. Affecting all races and ages, acne is most common in teenagers and young adults. An estimated 80% of all people between the ages of 11 and 30 have acne outbreaks at some point. Some people in their 40s and 50s still get acne.

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Q:What is sebum?

A:Natural oil found in the skin. Sebum (SEE-bum) is the medical term for the natural oil of the skin. Sebum is made within the sebaceous (seb-BAY-shuss) glands.

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Q:Blackheads are the result of oil and dirt. True or False?

A:False. If sebum breaks through to the surface, the result is a "whitehead." If the oil accumulates melanin pigment or becomes oxidized, the oil changes from white to black, and the result is a "blackhead." Blackheads are therefore not dirt and do not reflect poor hygiene.

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Q:Acne is often seen in babies. True or False?

A:True. Appropriately enough, acne in babies is called "baby acne" or "neonatal acne." Pink pimples are often caused by exposure in the womb to maternal hormones. No treatment is needed, just time. The pimples can last for weeks or even months on baby's skin.

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Q:Rosacea and acne are the same disease. True or False?

A:False. Rosacea is characterized by pimples in the middle third of the face, along with redness, flushing, and the presence of superficial blood vessels. It generally affects people in their 30s and 40s and older. There is sometimes no "bright line" separating acne from rosacea; however, there are no blackheads or whiteheads in rosacea.

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Q:What is the best home care for mild acne?

A:Gentle cleansers and skin care. The best at-home treatment for mild acne is gentle cleansing and skin care. Never pick or squeeze pimples. Playing with or popping pimples, no matter how careful and clean you are, can cause scarring and nearly always makes bumps stay redder and bumpier longer.

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Q:How do home treatments and prescription therapies fight acne?

A:Unclogging pores, killing bacteria, and minimizing oil (sebum).
Note: Despite what you read in popular style and fashion magazines, there is no magic product or acne regimen that is right for every person and situation.

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Q:Acne is a serious health threat. True or False?

A:False. Acne is not a serious health threat, but it can cause scars. Early treatment is the best way to prevent scars. Your doctor may suggest over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs. Some acne medicines are put right on the skin. Other medicines are pills that you swallow. The doctor may tell you to use more than one medicine.

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