Acne (Pimples)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideSlideshow: Acne Visual Dictionary

Slideshow: Acne Visual Dictionary

What other skin conditions can mimic acne?

  • Rosacea: This condition is characterized by pimples but not comedones and occurs in the middle third of the face, along with redness, flushing, and superficial blood vessels. It generally affects people in their 30s and 40s and older.
  • Pseudofolliculitis: This is sometimes called "razor bumps" or "razor rash." When cut too close to the skin, growing hairs twist into the skin and produce tender bumps. This is a mechanical problem, and treatment involves shaving less (growing a beard, laser hair removal). Pseudofolliculitis can, of course, occur in patients who have acne, too.
  • Folliculitis: Pimples can occur on other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, buttocks, or legs. These represent not acne but inflamed follicles. If these don't go away on their own, doctors can prescribe oral or external antibiotics, generally not the same ones used for acne.
  • Gram-negative folliculitis: Some patients who have been treated with oral antibiotics for long periods of time develop pustules filled with bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotics that were previously used. Bacterial culture tests can identify these germs, leading the doctor to prescribe different antibiotics or other forms of treatment.

When should someone start acne treatment?

Since everyone gets acne at some time, the right time to treat it is when it becomes bothersome or when the potential for scarring develops. This can be when severe acne flares suddenly, for mild acne that just won't go away, or even when a single pimple decides to show up the week before one's prom or wedding.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/13/2015

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