Acne is a common skin disorder that involves the skin's oil producing glands and hair follicles. Acne is caused by the build-up of debris, including dead skin cells, in the hair follicle causing obstruction of the oil flow and bacteria. This build-up results in the formation of "whiteheads" and "blackheads" more commonly known as acne.

The aggravating factors that may increase the occurrence of acne include:

  • Stress, including difficulties in relationships, fatigue, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and/or illness.
  • Hormones that stimulate oil production, which is why acne begins at puberty.
  • Friction/sweating, especially the combination, can lead to acne. Hand-to-face contact is a common source of friction.
  • Cosmetics/skin products, mainly oil based products, that can clog pores.
  • Medicines such as steroids, birth control pills, some asthma medications, anti-epilepsy medicines, INH, and lithium.
  • Nutritional supplements that have iodine.

The treatment of acne includes the following:

  • Wash the skin twice a day and avoid excessive scrubbing. Use a mild soap like Neutrogena, Purpose, or Dove.
  • Use water-based or dermatological safe cosmetics only.
  • DO NOT pick or squeeze acne lesions.
  • Use over-the-counter medication containing benzoyl peroxide.
  • If acne fails to improve, seek a medical consult.

Self Care Tips:

  • Keep your skin clean. Using a clean washcloth every time, work the soap into your skin gently for a minute or two and rinse well.
  • Leave your skin alone! Don't squeeze, scratch, or poke at pimples. They can get infected and leave scars.
  • Use over-the-counter cream or lotion that has benzoyl peroxide.
  • Wash after you exercise or sweat.
  • Wash your hair at least twice a week and keep it off your face.
  • For men: Wrap a warm towel around your face before you shave. This will make your beard softer. Always shave the way the hair grows.
  • Avoid too much time in the sun. Don't use a sun lamp.
  • Use only water-based makeup. Don't use greasy or oily creams, lotions, or makeup.

When self-care is not enough, a health care provider can prescribe topical ointments and/or antibiotics. In cases of cystic acne or acne resistant to conventional treatment, an evaluation by a dermatologist is advisable and Accutane may be considered. No matter what treatments are recommended, remember to continue proper skin care.

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For more information contact the UNC Student Health Center at 351-2412.