Acne: Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Pimples rearing their ugly heads? Here’s how to prevent and manage acne.

Pimples rearing their ugly heads? Here’s how to prevent and manage acne

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid decreases the shedding of cells inside the hair follicles, which prevents clogged pores. This medication is often found in acne facial washes and cleansers, as well as gels and creams. Salicylic acid may cause burning, stinging and redness of the skin.


Sulfur is thought to treat acne by preventing the growth of P acnes, and may also help remove dead skin cells and excess oil. It's often found in combination with resorcinol or sulfacetamide. It may cause dryness, redness and peeling of the skin. The use of sulfur products is often limited because of its chalky yellow color and noticeable odor. Products containing resorcinol may cause a reversible dark scaling on people with darker skin tones.

It's important to use these products as directed, and to adhere to the selected treatment regimen. If you experience any adverse reactions due to these products, you should stop using them immediately and contact your primary health care provider.

If your acne shows no signs of improvement or worsens after regular use, consider consulting a dermatologist to discuss other treatment options or recommendations for your acne.

If you have a moderate-to-severe case of acne, you should always seek medical care for evaluation to avoid further complications. Your doctor may prescribe a prescription product, either an oral or topical medication, to treat your acne. In some cases, your doctor may suggest a combination of treatments. Since some medications should not be used during pregnancy, it's important to inform your doctor if you're pregnant, breast-feeding or planning to become pregnant.

Prior to prescribing any medications for acne treatment, your doctor will obtain a full medical, allergy and medication history to prevent any possible contraindications or drug interactions. It's important to adhere to the recommended treatment for the medication to be effective, especially since it may take several weeks to see any signs of improvement. You should always discuss any concerns about your treatment with your physician or pharmacist, and be sure you clearly understand how to use your medication and the side effects associated with its use.

Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 18, 2010, on It has been edited and republished by U.S. News.