Beyond the Blemish

How to get to the root of your acne breakouts and make real progress in your skin health.

Acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates up to 50 million Americans are affected annually.

But this is one of those times when there’s no comfort in numbers. 

Teens and adults struggling with moderate to severe acne often socially isolate themselves. They aren’t just dealing with the physical effects of their breakouts, they may also experience anxiety or embarrassment about their appearance.

In this post, we’ll first give you a broad overview of what acne is, then look at how a dermatologist can help get to the root cause of your acne and help you form a treatment plan.

What is Acne?

When hair follicles become clogged with oil, dirt, and dead skin cells, acne can develop. 

When that happens, you can develop blemishes on your face, chest, upper back, or shoulders. These areas are prone to acne because they have the most oil (sebaceous) glands. 

Signs/symptoms of acne are listed below, in order of severity:

Who gets acne?

Acne usually begins in puberty, with approximately 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experiencing at least minor acne symptoms.

Sad to say, but you’re not out of the woods when you’re out of your teens. Acne can occur at any stage of life … well into your forties. 

In fact, adult acne is increasing and may affect up to 15% of women. 

Diagnosing Acne

A dermatologist can help determine if your breakouts are acne or if it’s a completely different skin condition.

If you have acne, it will be graded on a scale from 1 (mild) to 4 (severe) and it will be noted what type (or types) of acne are on your skin.

Acne Treatments

Consistent application of over-the-counter treatments may work for mild-to-moderate acne, but for persistent or severe cases you will want to see a dermatologist.


Generally speaking, if your skin is oily, wash your entire face twice a day (or after sweating) with a cleanser containing salicylic acid. If you have dry skin, use a gentle foaming cleanser instead. 

With either product, let the cleanser sit on your skin a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly so the active ingredients can soak in. 

Pimples can be spot treated with a benzoyl peroxide treatment cream. 

If your acne isn’t responding to self-care, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. Depending on how bad it gets, acne can scar the skin. The earlier you start professional treatment, the lower your risk of such problems.

Professional Treatments

If you have a lot of acne, cysts, or nodules, self-care medications that you can buy without a prescription may not work. 

Topical Treatments

Acne treatments applied to the surface of the skin are called topical treatments.  Some topicals work by killing bacteria, others work on reducing oil production. 

Topical medications may contain a retinoid, prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic, or even salicylic acid. 

Your dermatologist will determine what’s best for your specific needs.

Systemic Treatments

For severe types of acne, like cysts or nodules, your dermatologist may prescribe an oral medication to treat your acne from the inside out. 

Some examples: 

Clinical Procedures

During your course of treatment, your dermatologist may determine that you need an in-office procedure to treat your acne. 

Examples are:

Get Beyond the Blemish

Acne is not likely to go away on its own. And without treatment, it can cause permanent scarring and cause you to withdraw socially if you are self-conscious about your appearance.

Regardless of the reason for your breakouts, consistent self-care and/or professional treatments are the only way to maintain healthy skin.

If you aren’t able to get control of your breakouts with self-care methods and over-the-counter products, call Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater at (757) 461-1033 today to schedule an appointment with one of our dermatology specialists.

Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater, located in Norfolk, Virginia, provides comprehensive personalized dermatologic care to patients of all skin types, conditions, and ages. Medical director Jonathan Schreiber, MD, PhD and the entire professional medical team at Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater approach dermatologic exams from the medical root of an issue, and similarly, cosmetic issues from the science of a treatment, using science-based support and results with the treatment services offered to patients.

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