Nearly everyone will have a degree of acne at some point in their life. For most people, acne is an occasional source of frustration, but for others, it can be an ongoing and consistent problem. In these cases, treatment from a qualified dermatologist like Dr. Damstetter is important.

What is Acne?

Acne is a very common skin condition in which the skin follicles become clogged with dead skin cells (keratinocytes), excess oil, bacteria, and other debris. This results in whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and cysts. Just about everyone will face acne at some point in their lives, though the condition is most common among teenagers and can be persistent for some adult patients. In addition, acne can result in scars that may be raised, depressed, or pigmented. The most common areas for acne to appear include the face, chest and shoulders, or upper back.

How long does acne last?

Acne can have onset in adolescence but may last into adulthood. Some people see acne emerge well into adulthood. Untreated acne may last for years.

How do you clear up acne?

A board certified dermatologist will assess the severity of acne and prescribe medications, including topicals and orals if needed, to reduce the number of acne lesions. Consistent use of medical and over the counter therapies will reduce the likelihood of breakouts in the future.

What can I drink to clear my skin?

While it is good to stay hydrated, there is no beverage that will clear up acne breakouts.

What helps to clear acne?

Topical retinoids, a type of vitamin a derived class of molecules, are highly effective at reducing acne lesions. Benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics and various chemical peeling agents are also helpful. Oral antibiotics or other medications may benefit more stubborn or severe acne. A board certified dermatologist will give recommendations for optimal regimens.

What does cystic acne look like?

Cystic acne looks like swollen, deep red bumps on the skin. They may be tender to touch and often last longer than typical pimples.

What Causes Acne?

Hormones, bacteria, stress, diet and genetic factors all contribute to the formation of acne. Some medications may worsen acne, and heavy or occlusive skin products may contribute as well.

How long does acne last?

Acne often emerges in adolescence. It is hard to predict how long it will last, and untreated acne often leads to scarring. It is best to treat acne as soon as it becomes visible and persisting beyond a couple of weeks.

How do you clear up acne?

Treating active acne breakouts involves killing the bacteria that are causing the infection, reducing the inflammation that occurs as a result, and keeping the skin clean and protected to prevent future breakouts.

What helps to clear acne?

Keeping your skin clean and moisturized appropriately for your skin type is the foundation for healthy, acne-free skin. For more serious, chronic breakouts, a dermatologist can recommend a treatment plan with medical-grade products.

Types of Acne

Some common types of acne are:

  • Whiteheads—closed pores that appear white or light pink in color
  • Blackheads—open pores that appear brown or black (because of keratin oxidation in the pore)
  • Papules—small red bumps that are often sore or tender
  • Pimples—papules that also have pus present
  • Nodules—solid and tender or painful bumps below the skin’s surface
  • Cystic acne—painful bumps below the skin, similar to nodules, that may become chronic

Liz Damstetter, MD

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Meet the Doctor

Common Acne Causes

Acne is caused by clogged follicles (or pores) as a result of excess oil production, dead skin cells, or debris. This results in bacteria production and the inflammation seen in a breakout. There are several lifestyle habits or medical conditions that can contribute to acne. In some cases, changing your everyday habits can help reduce your acne as you seek treatment from a dermatologist. Some common acne causes include:

  • Hormonal changes or imbalances: whether puberty or adulthood, hormonal changes or certain medical conditions can result in excess sebum production and inflammation, exacerbating acne.
  • Stress: While it is not generally believed that stress is a root cause of acne, it can make existing acne worse.
  • Side effects of medications: Certain medications, such as those containing corticosteroids, testosterone, or lithium, can cause acne.
  • Poor diet: While no specific diet can be attributed to acne, many patients note a correlation between diets high in dairy or sugar and the worsening of acne.
  • Improper skin care: Excessively harsh soaps or exfoliation can worsen acne.
  • Lifestyle habits: Certain habits, such as friction on the skin from clothing or contact with oily products, can worsen acne.
  • Genetics: there is a strong familial link in chronic acne and particularly acne scarring. Early consultation with a dermatologist like Dr. Damstetter is critical for young patients with a family history of acne.


“Dr. Liz is truly the best dermatologist I’ve ever been to. She is attentive, kind, and genuinely cares about her patients and their overall skin health. I can not recommend her enough!!!”

“Dr. Damstetter was the first dermatologist I trusted to do my Botox. She is both knowledgeable and professional and did a fantastic job. I will be using her for any and all of my future needs.”

Acne Treatment Options

The primary goal of acne treatment is to control the breakouts and avoid or reduce scarring. Several treatment options are available.

Dr. Damstetter may recommend a topical treatment option. Products containing retinoids can help properly exfoliate the skin so dead cells do not clog the hair follicles. Other topical products containing benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid or salicylic acid can also help for the same reason. Some of these products may cause sensitivity or redness as a possible side effect.

Antibiotics can also be helpful in controlling acne by reducing the bacteria that causes irritation and inflammation. These antibiotics may be either topical or oral.

Hormone-directed medical therapy, such as spironolactone, can also be helpful for those suffering from acne. Hormonal contraceptives can be especially beneficial for women who have acne.

In some cases, isotretinoin (a medical version of high-dose vitamin A, otherwise known as Accutane) is recommended for severe or scarring acne. Dr. Damstetter has extensive experience in safely treating patients, both adolescent and adult, with isotretinoin and will further discuss this option in great detail if acne is especially severe or failing other medical options.

Finally, treatments such as light therapy, chemical peels, or professional extraction can each help improve stubborn acne.

The best option for you will vary depending on the type and cause of your acne. During your appointment, Dr. Damstetter will explain the best treatment plan for your unique needs.

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Schedule an Appointment

To learn more about your acne treatment options, schedule an appointment with Dr. Liz Damstetter at Reserve Dermatology. Call our Glenview, IL office or contact us online.

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