What Is Acne? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells, dirt and sebum, your skin’s natural oil. It often shows up as whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, and can appear anywhere on the face, scalp, chest and back. It is one of the most common skin problems in the U.S., affecting about 25% of men and 50% of women at some point in their adult lives.

The good news is that, with the right skin care products to help control oil production, unclog pores and lighten acne scarring, anyone can have clearer skin. Here we break down what’s causing it and how you can prevent it, as well as giving you tips on how to pick the right skin care and makeup products for your acne-prone skin.

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Our teenage years may be far behind us, but clearly that’s no reason for acne to leave us alone. Sure, there are a plethora of treatments, pills, creams and the like out there, but how do we know which one will work for us? To help us understand acne better—and the treatments available for us—we reached out to the experts at Obagi, the world leader in prescription-strength skin care formulas and treatments. From what triggers acne breakouts to what we can do about them, here are Obagi’s best tips, tricks and product recommendations for banishing blemishes for good.

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According to the International Dermal Institute, clinical studies show that between 40 and 55 percent of the adult population are diagnosed with low-grade, persistent acne and/or oily skin at some point. Thankfully, treatments are readily available. The hardest part may be identifying the types of products and medications that work best for your skin. To help, we’ve enlisted top dermatologists to put together a guide to common types of acne and the best options for treatment. Clear skin, here you come.

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If you’re suffering from breakouts, the cause of your acne could be more than skin deep. In fact, according to Chinese medicine, the complexion may provide insight into a person’s internal health, with the different areas of the face corresponding to specific organs and functions of the body—a system referred to as face mapping.


You’ve used every acne treatment that promises to clear your skin—even avoided food choices with questionable reputations like pizza and chocolate—and yet, your acne keeps showing up in the worst of times (the night before your first date or a big presentation!). It turns out that there are quite a few other things contributing to acne that you probably aren’t aware of. Read on to discover 10 things that could be causing and aggravating your breakouts.

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Acne isn’t just a problem for teens. According to studies, those pesky zits and pimples can pop up at any age. Whether it’s your diet, environment or stress that’s to blame, you don’t have to suffer helplessly. To get the skinny on acne, we talked to board-certified dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, M.D., president and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Physicians, Inc. and founder of Here, she shares her best tips on how to choose the right acne cleanser for you, as well as how to use it to get the best results.

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In a perfect world, no day would ever have to be ruined by a breakout. Unfortunately, the world is neither perfect nor free of acne-causing bacteria, so we turn to science to help us achieve clear and blemish-free skin instead. One of the most common ingredients in anti-acne skin care products is benzoyl peroxide, often found in cleansers, toners and treatment gels. Many swear by its effectiveness, but what some may not know is how it works exactly.

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It happens to the best of us. No matter how diligently you abide by your daily skin care regimen or lead a healthy lifestyle, we still get that unwelcome surprise courtesy of a pimple that seems to come out of nowhere. Perhaps you had a stressful week at work, have been clocking in less sleep than usual or are experiencing a reaction from that new serum that is all the rage on Instagram—but whatever the cause, waking up to find an angry zit is enough to send anyone into panic mode. So how do you deal with it?

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It’s safe to say that regardless of the season, there’s just no room for body acne (aka bacne) in your life. Not only does it put a damper on your plans for back-baring #ootds, it can also cause great physical discomfort. Not to mention, it can be particularly frustrating to treat especially when it sprouts in hard-to-reach places. And with beach season in full swing, even the clearest and most radiant of skins are not spared—thanks to all that sweating, product buildup and constant exposure to environmental irritants (and bacteria).

Because acne is so common—affecting up to 50 million Americans annually—and often a challenge to treat, it has spawned a plethora of remedies that range from eyebrow-raising home cures (uh, toothpaste as spot treatment, anyone?) to professional prescriptions. But with the ever-growing green trend, more and more people are skipping synthetic chemicals and embracing natural ingredients—as evidenced by toners, cleansers and spot treatments that feature tea tree oil, charcoal and green tea, among others. But the question really is, are natural acne fixes just as effective?

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Unfortunately for many, acne continues far into our adult decades, and while makeup itself doesn’t necessarily cause acne, it can make it worse. That’s why it’s essential to be mindful of what ingredients are lurking, not just in your go-to moisturizers and cleansers, but also in your makeup bag. Though there are a variety of factors that could be irritating your T-zone, from fluctuating hormones to stress, sometimes the wrong product cocktail on your skin can be to blame. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from unfortunate (and let’s face it: annoying!) breakouts.

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Life with acne can be unpredictable, frustrating and embarrassing. Whether it’s the occasional breakouts or the stuff of teenage nightmares persisting through adulthood, it can be a struggle to eat right and find skin care products that won’t aggravate your skin. Not to mention, the seemingly impossible task of finding the right foundation that will cover up those blemishes without prompting your skin to go haywire.

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If you’re someone with oily, acne-prone or combination skin, toner should most certainly be a staple in your skin care regimen. You might experience oiliness only in certain areas of your face, namely your T-zone, and toner makes it easy to address these areas without drying out other areas that are less oily and not in need of stripping.

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