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Section I–Common Health Problems - Acne

HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

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 Section I–Common Health Problems

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“Zits are the pits! I was hoping that by the time I
got to college, my pimples would be gone. They
weren’t. I went to a dermatologist and did what he
said. It’s easier to look in the mirror now.”

Sally J., Valparaiso University

Acne is a common skin condition. It occurs most
often in teenagers and young adults, but can persist
into adulthood.

Signs & Symptoms

The following occur on the
face, neck, back, and/or

Whiteheads and/or

Red and painful pimples

Deeper lumps
(cysts or nodules)

Causes & Risk Factors

Acne results when oil ducts below the skin get
clogged. Factors that help cause acne include:

Hormone changes during adolescence

Changes in hormone levels before a female’s
menstrual period or during pregnancy

Rich moisturizing lotions or oily makeup

Emotional stress

Nutritional supplements that have iodine

Some anticonvulsive medications (for seizures)
and lithium (used to treat some forms of

Illegal (anabolic) steroids (used for muscle-building)

Foods and beverages, such as chocolate, nuts,
greasy foods and cola do not cause acne. If you find
that eating certain foods make your acne worse,
avoid them.



Mild acne can be treated with self-care
(see below). When this is not enough, a health care provider
can prescribe one or more of the following:

A topical cream, gel, or liquid with retinoic
acid (Retin-A). {Note: Retin-A makes your
skin more sensitive to the sun.}

A topical cream, lotion or wipe with an antibiotic,
such as clindamycin or erythromycin.

An antibiotic pill, such as minocycline or
tetracycline. {Note: These medicines can
make birth control pills less effective and
make your skin more sensitive to the sun.}

For some females, a specific birth control pill.

Oral retinoic acid (Accutane). This is usually
prescribed for severe acne. {Note: Discuss this
medicine with your health care provider.
Females should not get pregnant while they
take this medicine and for at least 1 month after
stopping it as it can cause severe birth defects.
There is also some evidence that pregnant
females should avoid contact with sperm from
males who take Accutane. In addition, Accutane may cause depression, phychosis,
and rarely, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts,
and suicide.}

Questions to Ask

Are you taking the medicine Accutane and are you
planning suicide, making suicidal gestures, or do you have repeated
thoughts of suicide or death?

Is your acne very bad and do
you have signs of an infection,
such as a fever and swelling at
the acne site?


Do you have any of these

  • The acne results in scarring.
  • The pimples are big and
    painful or widespread.
  • The acne causes a lot of
    emotional embarrassment.

Have you tried self-care and it
doesn’t help or does it make
your skin worse?



Gently wash your skin, where the acne appears, twice a day.
Use a mild soap and clean washcloth. Work the soap into your skin gently for
1 to 2 minutes. Rinse well. Don’t scrub.

Wash after you exercise or sweat.

Wash your hair at least every other day.

For males: To soften your beard, wrap a warm
towel around your face before you shave. Shave along the natural grain of the beard.

Leave your skin alone! Don’t squeeze,
scratch, or poke at pimples. They can get infected and leave scars.

Use an over-the-counter lotion or cream that
has benzoyl peroxide. (Some people are
allergic to benzoyl peroxide. Try a little on
your arm first to make sure it doesn’t hurt
your skin.) Follow the directions as listed.

Don’t spend too much time in the sun especially
if you take antibiotics for acne. Don’t
use sun lamps.

Use only oil-free and water-based makeup. Don’t use greasy or oil-based creams, lotions,
or makeup.

If you take an antibiotic for acne treatment
and get signs of a vaginal yeast infection, use “Self-Care/Prevention For a
Vaginal Yeast Infection

For Information, Contact:

American Academy of Dermatology
888.462.DERM (462.3376)

6th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine
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December 08, 2005