What is Acne?

Acne is a skin condition that happens when the pores on our skin get clogged causing inflamed pimples, and deeper cysts. Acne can be on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Although acne is most common in teenagers it can also affect adults at all ages. Acne can clear up on its own without treatment, but some cases can be severe lasting for months or even years. For many with moderate to severe acne, scarring can leave permanent marks and pitting.

What Causes Acne?

Acne is caused when pores in our skin get clogged.  A clog usually begins with dead skin cells sticking together inside our pores.  Typically dead skin cells rise to the surface and the body sheds the cells without problem. Sometimes our body will produce too much sebum, oil that keeps our skin from drying out. This oil becomes the binding agent for these dead skin cells causing issues with our body’s ability to shed the dead skin cells.

A clogged pore is also a perfect place for bacteria to grow and multiply quickly. This is when the pore can become red and swollen and takes on a ‘pimple’ appearance. The inflamed pore can be deep enough to cause an acne cyst or nodule.

Treatment Options

There are many medications and treatment options available for patients suffering from acne. Some treatment recommendations may include topical medication, oral medication, laser procedures for scarring, and home prevention.

Medications your dermatologist might recommend are:

  • Topical medication
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Accutane

Acne Extraction or Acne “Surgery”

Acne extractions, also known as acne surgery, involve the use of a sterile tool to remove trapped material within a pimple, whitehead, or blackhead. This also opens the pores to allow topical medication in more effectively. Acne extraction is not the same as popping a pimple at home and should only be performed by a dermatologist to prevent the risk of skin damage and scaring. We generally recommend patients to receive acne extractions every 2-4 weeks in combination with other acne treatments to maintain acne free skin.

Acne Scarring

Although Acne is a common skin condition that does not have systemic concerns it can leave lasting scars on the face chest and back that have long term psychological and emotional effects on many teenagers and adults. Once the active acne is controlled or no longer present there are treatments available to help diminish the appearance of the redness and indentations that acne can leave behind.

Treatment options include:

  • IPL- 1540- non ablative laser for acne scarring
  • Microneedling
  • Chemical peels
  • IPL photofacials for redness
  • CO2 fractional laser for scars


Acne might not always be preventable, but it can be controlled. With the help of your dermatologist and a good home care regimen, you should be able to control your acne. It is important to remember to wash your face daily and follow your dermatologist home care instructions.

If you’re prone to acne related skin problems, talk with your dermatologist about what the best course of treatment for you would be. A dermatologist at Seattle Skin & Laser can examine your skin and set you on the right track to clearing your acne.

Frequently Asked Questions About Acne

What is the difference between acne and pimples?

The terms ‘acne’ and ‘pimples’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but it’s important to know that there’s a difference. In general, ‘acne’ is a skin condition that sometimes causes pimples to manifest. Conversely, acne does not always result in pimples.

Does drinking water help acne?

Yes! Ensuring your body has the water it needs is a good way to keep your skin hydrated, meaning your skin can cut down on its oil production (which is your skin’s natural method of moisturizing). Make sure to drink water every day along with eating a healthy and varied diet.

Can my makeup cause acne?

Not all makeup will cause acne, but certain types can clog pores because of comedogenic ingredients. If makeup seems to be causing your acne, try switching brands or opting for powder products over liquid. Also, make sure to keep your brushes clean and thoroughly cleanse your makeup off every night.