Acne is a very common dermatologic problem, affecting nearly 80 percent of teens. It can also persist into adulthood, most commonly in women. Acne problems can cause significant emotional distress and self-esteem issues. Acne scarring can persist throughout life. Early treatment of acne is advised. While some over-the-counter medications such as benzoyl peroxide have benefit in treating acne, the dermatologist has a number of excellent prescription options, including topical medications, oral antibiotics, and hormonal therapy for women, such as birth control pills and spironolactone. Isotretinoin may be used for recalcitrant and/or severe cases.


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Acne develops during puberty under the influence of hormones and in conjunction with genetic factors. Acne is not caused by not cleansing the face. The role of diet in acne is unclear and is being evaluated. The main factors in the development of acne lesions include oil produced by the sebaceous glands, bacteria living deep in the pores known as Propionibacterium acnes, clogged pores known as comedones (also called blackheads and whiteheads), and the inflammatory reaction. Each of these causative factors can be targeted with appropriate therapy. For example, most—if not all—acne is thought to start with a clog in the follicle. Prescription topical retinoids can help unclog pores and even help to prevent the formation of these comedones. This not only treats the breakouts that are present, but helps prevent further flare ups with appropriate use. In many cases, treatments may be combined to address different aspects of acne formation in order to improve results.

Dr. Spiers will prescribe medications appropriate to your care and the type and severity of your acne. It is important to note that while treatments may begin to work within one week, best results develop over a matter of several months. Consistency with the treatment plan will give the best outcome. Medications should be applied to the entire affected area, such as the whole face, and not just be used on the breakouts. Many acne topicals can be drying, so use of a mild cleanser and non-comedogenic moisturizer can help minimize irritation. Scrubbing granules are not advised. Waxing of brows or facial hair is not recommended with certain acne topicals. Patients should not pick at acne lesions, as this can lead to scarring. Flat pink or brown marks are not true scars and will fade with time as the acne comes under better control. Regular follow-up visits with Dr. Elizabeth Spiers or Physician Assistant Heather Rookstool can be used to determine progress and assess tolerance of your medication, with adjustments made to your care plan as needed.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about acne treatment options please call (215) 230-4592.