A youth with acne using a cotton pad to clean his face

Acne is a general term for eruptive skin disease. There are many types of acne including blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, and cysts. Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States, affecting 40 to 50 million Americans. Acne generally occurs in teenagers and young adults, though it can affect anyone. Each year, 85% of teenagers in America will develop acne.


Though the exact cause of acne has not been determined, research has shown that four key elements contribute to acne. They are: excess oil, clogged pores, bacteria, and inflammation. During adolescence, the body begins to develop more sebum oil, which is produced to ensure our skin does not dry out. When sebum cannot flow freely to the skin, clogged pores result. Bacteria already found on the skin’s surface flourish in the excess oil, and the body responds with inflammation.

The degree of inflammation determines what type of acnes appears on the skin. A small amount of inflammation results in a blackhead or a whitehead. This means oil flow is blocked right at the surface of the skin, and is the least serious form of acne. If the pore is blocked deeper within the skin, a papule, or pimple, forms. If the pore becomes blocked deeper still, a pus-filled pimple, or pustule, forms. The most severe type of acne lesions are cysts, which occur when very deep blockage causes intense inflammation. Cysts, sometimes called nodules, are very painful bumps that can lead to scarring.


There are many treatment options available for reducing your acne. Because every case is different, and treatment effectiveness depends on your specific type of acne, talk to Dr. Katsnelson about finding the right treatment. 

Some common options include:

  • Cleansers:

    Cleansers containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide may help reduce acne. These agents to various degrees dry out the skin, remove debris, and unclog pores.

  • Topical Retinoids:

    Topical retinoids work by loosening the plugs in clogged pores. They are also helpful in removing superficially clogged pores that cause blackheads and whiteheads.

  • Topical Antibiotics:

    Topical antibiotics are used to remove the skin bacteria that leads to papules and pustules. They may be used in combination with other agents.

  • Oral Antibiotics:

    Oral (by mouth) antibiotics may be prescribed for more severe acne lesions, and are most effective in treating papules, pustules, and cysts. They work to decrease inflammation and bacteria around the acne lesions.

  • Isotretinoin:

    Isotretinoin is an oral medication that is used for the more severe cases of acne. Isotretinoin reduces the size of the skin’s oil glands and the amount of oil the skin produces. The reduction in oil also leads to the reduction of bacteria living in the skin. Isotretinoin also slows down how fast the skin produces skin cells inside the pore, which helps pores from becoming clogged. There are many side effects of Isotretinoin and it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with a Dermatologist.

  • Birth Control Pills:

    Birth control pills may help reduce acne in female patients by decreasing the effect of male hormones that increase or trigger acne development. Birth control pills also have side effects that must be considered when determining if this is the right treatment for you.

If scarring from acne occurs, some options such as Microneedling may help reduce the appearance of scars. Talk to Dr. Katsnelson if you are interested in acne scar treatment.