Acne 101

All About Acne

Acne is a general term for a chronic skin condition caused by oil and dead skin cells clogging up your pores. Acne usually shows up as pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads, most often on the face, neck, shoulders, back, or chest. Often, an acne treatment with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help clear it up.

The most common type of acne is the one that starts during your teen years, when changes in hormones (especially testosterone) cause your glands to produce more oil. That oil is supposed to help protect your skin. But if it mixes with dead skin cells and clogs your pores, you’ve got the start of acne. Mix in some bacteria, and you can get swelling, redness, and pus.

Your acne can be made worse by using skin or hair care products that use a lot of oil, or if you wear tight-fitting things that rub on your skin, like a hairband or the chinstrap of a football helmet.

Acne can also be a potential side effect if you take certain medications, including steroids and anticonvulsants.

Pimples happen when you get a clogged pore that becomes infected with bacteria. While they typically look red and often show up as raised bumps above the skin, there are actually two kinds of pimples.

Papules are pimples that burst under the skin, causing bacteria to go into the surrounding tissue. Skin around a papule usually looks red.

Pustules are papules that are located deeper under the skin. The skin around a pustule may not be as red, and they sometimes have a white top. They can also feel really sore.

Blackheads occur when dead skin cells and oil plug your pores and then get exposed on your skin’s surface. The plug looks “black” thanks to the melanin pigment in your skin and how the oil in that plugged pore reacts with the air. A blackhead-removing scrub can help remove pore-clogging dirt, oil, and bacteria.

Whiteheads happen when dead skin cells and oil plug the upper portion of your pores, but, unlike blackheads, it all remains below your skin’s surface.

Acne shouldn’t be squeezed or picked at. Squeezing a pimple can force its contents (dead skin, oil, and bacteria) deeper into your skin, causing additional inflammation and even scarring. And if you pop it and the bacteria inside gets into other pores, it can actually cause even more pimples.

Since acne is caused by oil and dead skin clogging your pores, having oily skin can make you more prone to pimples and other blemishes. Whether or not you have an oily complexion is largely a result of genetics, though increased hormones during your teen years can also lead to your body producing more oil. Washing with a skin clearing facial cleanser or using medicated cleansing pads may help.

Stress is commonly blamed for acne because it can, among other things, cause changes in hormones. These changes may theoretically cause your acne to get worse, but a definitive link between stress and acne hasn’t been made. However, even without a direct physiological link, there is a chance that when you’re stressed you touch and pick at your skin more, and that most definitely can cause your acne to get worse.

Despite what your mom may say, no direct link has definitively been established between acne and eating certain kinds of foods (such as greasy fast food or chocolate). That being said, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is good for every part of your body, including your skin.

While sweat isn’t thought to be a direct cause of acne, in some cases it can be a contributing factor or make a breakout worse. This is especially true if you combine sweat with something that’s tight against the skin or rubs against it, like bra straps, football shoulder pads, or the chinstrap of a helmet.

The truth is that while people of all races and ages get acne, it’s impossible to tell exactly who will be affected and who won’t. Many experts believe that acne is hereditary—if your parents had acne, you likely will too. However, you might get breakouts but your brother or sister won’t. It is true that teenage boys do tend to get more severe, long-lasting acne, possibly because their bodies produce more of the hormones (especially testosterone) that cause it.

Acne is usually at its most intense during your teen years, and then eases off when you’re in your early twenties. However, since the hormones that cause acne don’t entirely disappear as you age, some people will continue to get acne (at least the occasional pimple) into their thirties, and a few into their forties.

Treating & Preventing Acne

If you have an acne breakout, don’t panic! An over the counter treatment featuring benzoyl peroxide—which kills acne-causing bacteria—can often clear up your skin faster than you may think. For especially quick results, try a “leave on” option such as OXY® Rapid Spot Treatment.

OXY® Rapid Treatment 3-in-1 Pads unclog pores with the exfoliating help of salicylic acid. And you’ll want to make sure that you’re keeping your face clean using a gentle soap or skin cleanser (just don’t wash so much that your skin becomes irritated).

Of course, if your acne won’t go away, you have a severe case of acne, or your blemishes become infected, you should see your doctor.

The best way to deal with acne is to avoid it entirely. And there are several steps you can take to do just that. Clear, healthy skin starts with a healthy you, so make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet.

Skin care products that use salicylic acid can help keep your pores free from clogs so acne doesn’t get a chance to start. OXY® has a range of products featuring salicylic acid, including cleansing pads you can use virtually anywhere, a blackhead removing scrub, and fantastic skin clearing facial cleansers you can wash with every day.

There are also a few things you should avoid if you want to keep your skin acne-free. Don’t use skin care products that are excessively greasy. Don’t wash your skin so much that it becomes irritated. And, as much as possible, avoid wearing things that are tight on your skin or that rub against it, such as headbands or helmet chinstraps—especially if you sweat while doing so.

If you’re looking to shrink your pimples down to size, you need to attack the bacteria that’s causing them. Try a “leave on” spot treatment featuring benzoyl peroxide like our Rapid Spot Treatment. It visibly reduces redness in just four hours.

The best way to avoid acne scarring your skin is for you to avoid picking at or squeezing your pimples. Picking at your skin can lead to more inflammation and damage, while squeezing your zits can force pus and bacteria deeper into your pores, increasing the potential harm to your skin.

How OXY® Works

To help attack your acne breakout, many OXY® acne treatment products feature benzoyl peroxide, an acne medicine that’s been clinically proven to kill the bacteria that cause acne breakouts. It also helps remove the dead skin cells that can plug pores and cause acne.

Salicylic acid belongs to the same class of drugs as aspirin. The salicylic acid in OXY® products does a bunch of things to treat acne and keep your skin clear: it helps you shed dead skin cells more easily; it opens up and clears clogged pores, allowing oxygen in to help fight the bacteria they may contain; and it helps tighten up those pores, leaving your skin looking smooth and healthy.

Most acne products use benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to treat and prevent acne. And every OXY® product does contain one of these ingredients. But OXY® products are also specially formulated to provide additional benefits by using ingredients that promote healthy skin, or continuous action technology that allows the active ingredient to continue working over time.

Sensitive Skin & Allergies

We actually make a product specially formulated for people with your type of skin. Try OXY® Maximum Action Rapid Treatment Sensitive Skin Face Wash, which contains less benzoyl peroxide to minimize irritation. It’s also a good idea to start with one application a day, and then increase up to three times a day if needed.

If you’ve never used an acne treatment with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid before, we recommend that you test a small, affected area of your skin first and watch it for three days. If you have an allergic reaction (see below), make sure you don’t use the product again. However, if you don’t have any allergic symptoms, you can go ahead and continue using it. Just be sure and follow the instructions on the label.

Yes, in rare instances, serious cases of allergic reactions or severe irritation as a result of using benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid acne treatments have been reported. But the number of these reports is very low compared to the millions of people who have safely been using and benefiting from these treatments for decades.

In some cases, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can cause minor temporary redness, irritation, dryness, burning, peeling, or swelling. If any of these reactions occur, please follow the labeled directions and reduce usage to only once a day or every other day. These types of reactions are not considered serious and often can be minimized simply by using the products less often.

Symptoms can include breathing problems, lightheadedness, and swelling of the face, eyes, and lips, as well as tightening of the throat. These symptoms are not the same as more common—though still infrequent—milder reactions, such as redness, burning, dryness, itching, peeling, or slight swelling.

Make sure you seek medical attention right away. Once you’ve received treatment, please contact our Consumer Affairs Department at 1-877-636-2677 and tell us about your reaction.