What is acne?

Acne is the #1 dermatological complaint. Nearly everyone has, at some point, seen those red blemishes that indicate acne.

But the question, "What is acne?" goes beyond pimples and blemishes. Acne is in fact a disease involving bacteria, the natural production of sebum, and mechanisms which scientists are still unsure about. In fact, all over the world there are researchers who ask themselves daily, what is acne? What is it exactly?

If leading scientists can't quite answer the question, we can't hope to do much better. But we can offer a quick overview of the current understanding of acne to help answer the question, What is acne? to your satisfaction.

So, what is acne exactly?

This is where most people get it wrong: acne is not pimples or zits. Acne is a disease, a disorder of the skin. Pimples, blackheads and whiteheads are symptoms of this disease, but they are not the disease itself.

The disease known as acne is characterized by three things:

  • The clogging of facial pores
  • The presence of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (usually abbreviated as P. acne)
  • Comedones (whiteheads and blackheads)

It is possible to have pimples without having acne. That's another way of saying that acne is not the only cause of pimples -- there are a variety of causes, including hormone fluctuations, other skin disorders, lack of exfoliation, childbirth, menopause, etc.

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What is the clinical definition of acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is defined as follows:

Acne is a skin condition involving plugged pores, inflamed pimples and deeper lumps (nodules) occurring on the face as well as the neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms.

Are there other types of acne?

There are several subtypes of acne. They include the following:

Though acne is a common skin issue, there are a wide variety of treatment options. Learn more about acne products and other treatments for acne.

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