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Acne is a medical condition that occurs when pores on the surface of the skin become plugged. A pore is an opening of a hair follicle (root) and an oil gland. Pores get blocked when the glands make too much oil. Dirt collects, which causes bacteria to grow in the glands. The skin swells and forms painful bumps, commonly called pimples.



  • Topical medicine: These medicines include gels, ointments, creams, pastes, or liquid solutions that are put on your skin. They help decrease swelling and skin shedding.
  • Hormone medicine: These medicines help control the production of oil from the oil glands. Birth control pills are an example of hormone medicine.
  • Acne medicine: These are vitamin-based medicines, which are most useful in treating severe acne. These medicines may have serious side effects. You must not get pregnant or breastfeed while you are using this medicine.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or dermatologist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Skin care:

  • Be gentle when you wash: Do not rub or scrub your skin with a washcloth. Do not use hot water. Gently pat your skin dry with a clean towel or cloth.
  • Be careful with the medicines you are taking: Certain medicines, including natural and herbal medicines, may trigger an acne flare-up. Always check for skin changes when you take your medicines. Ask your primary healthcare provider before you use herbal medicines or products to control acne.
  • Do not squeeze, pop, or pick your pimples: This may damage your skin and cause infection or scarring.
  • Protect your skin from the sun: Wear sunscreen that has a sun protectant factor (SPF) approved by your primary healthcare provider. Follow the directions on the label when you use sunscreen.
  • Use water-based, oil-free makeup, soaps, or skin cleansers: Oil-based makeup may make acne worse. Check product labels on water-based makeup, since even these may have some added oil. Use mild soaps or cleansers that are oil-free and do not irritate acne.

Contact your primary healthcare provider dermatologist if:

  • Your acne is not getting better or gets worse after treatment.
  • You think you are pregnant and need to make sure it is safe to take your acne medicine.
  • You have questions about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • The fluid that comes out of your acne has a bad smell.
  • You have chest pain, or new or worsening heartburn.
  • You get a severe headache, blurred vision, or feel faint or dizzy.
  • You begin to throw up or you have a seizure.
  • You develop hives, a swollen face or mouth, or you have trouble breathing all of a sudden.
  • You have severe stomach, bowel, or pelvic pain, trouble swallowing, or painful swallowing.
  • You have diarrhea that contains blood.
  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow.
  • You have new muscle weakness, or joint or back pain.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Acne (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference Guides (External)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.