Acne is a very common skin condition in the United States. While teenagers are usually affected, acne often plagues adults in their twenties, thirties, and forties. The conventional wisdom of letting acne “run its course” is not always a good idea. Acne can have a huge impact on self-confidence and self-esteem. Delays in treatment can lead to pink spots, brown spots, and permanent scarring. Even when patients do attempt treatment, they may struggle to find a regimen that actually works or does not overly dry out the skin. At Arlington Dermatology, we understand the struggle with acne and that treatment is not cookie-cutter. We tailor treatment to an individual’s skin type and address the underlying cause of acne to come up with a personalized regimen for our patients.

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What Causes Acne?

Scar from Acne on face and dark spots and skin problems and make-up in women

Acne is caused by:

1) Hair follicles or pores that become clogged by dead skin cells 

2) Oil accumulation triggered by hormones 

3) Bacterial proliferation, and 

4) Inflammation

A pimple or zit develops when excess oil combines with dead skin cells to block pores and facilitate bacterial growth.  

Factors including hormonal imbalance, side effects from medications, genetics, and age may increase your risk for developing acne. Improper skincare routine, touching your face or picking at pimples, stress, wearing tight clothing, diet, high humidity, and other lifestyle and environmental factors can all make acne worse if you are already facing breakouts. 

Acne usually affects the face, but may also affect the back, chest, shoulders, buttocks, or other areas. 

Introducing Our New Provider, Saman Shahid

Saman, a board-certified member of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants, graduated Magna Cum Laude from George Mason University and graduated Summa Cum Laude from The George Washington University. She specializes in comprehensive dermatological care for patients of all ages, prioritizing preventive health, early skin cancer detection, and patient education.

Struggling with acne?

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Book your appointment with Saman Shahid, PA-C today!

What Types of Acne Are There?

The subtypes of acne include:

  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Papules
  • Pustules
  • Cysts
  • Nodules

Who Gets Acne?

Many people will experience acne during their preteen and teen years during puberty, which typically subsides as they enter their twenties. However, others may also face acne in their twenties, thirties, forties, or beyond. Adult acne is common and can be particularly frustrating.

Why Treat Acne?

Without treatment, acne can cause dark spots, pink spots, and permanent scarring—even when acne clears. Schedule an appointment at Arlington Dermatology for professional evaluation and treatment.

How Can I Prevent Acne?

Adopting good skincare habits can help you prevent acne. Some steps you can take to help prevent acne include:

  • Wash your face twice daily with a mild cleanser
  • Moisturize to help avoid over-producing oil
  • Gently exfoliate using over-the-counter products such as salicylic acid
  • Remove your makeup before bed
  • Avoid popping, squeezing, or picking at acne



Acne prevention is just as important as acne treatment. Our board-certified dermatologists at Arlington Dermatology will create a practical and effective skin regimen for you.

How Can I Treat Acne?

Close up of man with problematic skin and scars from acne

The best acne treatment option for you will vary depending on the specific type of acne you have and the root cause of your breakouts. Your dermatologist will carefully evaluate your skin and establish a customized treatment plan to address your acne. Some options include:

  • Topical retinoids
  • Azelaic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Salicylic acid
  • Topical antiseptics and antibiotics 
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Spironolactone
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane)
  • Chemical Peels
  • Laser or light therapy such as IPL
  • Steroid injection

Frequently Asked Questions


What can I drink to clear my skin?

While there is no singular drink or quick fix that will entirely clear your skin, some natural drinks/ingredients can restore or maintain healthy skin. Tea, such as green tea, is rich in antioxidants that boost skin repair and elasticity. If dairy is a trigger for your acne, choosing dairy-free alternatives to milk could help minimize breakouts.

How should I sleep to avoid acne?

Sleeping on your back is the best sleep position for healthy skin. Your face avoids contact with your hair and friction & pressure from your pillow, which can help prevent wrinkles and development of acne along the sides of your face. And if you tend to be a side sleeper, try using a silk pillowcase!

Should I use benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid?

Depending on your skin type, type of acne, and tolerance, both ingredients are very effective in treating acne. Benzoyl peroxide is effective in killing acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation, making it great for inflammatory acne. Salicylic acid is best for unclogging pores and reducing blackheads and whiteheads, making it suitable for comedonal acne. Again, consulting with a dermatologist can help determine if introducing either ingredient into your regimen is ideal.

What does cystic acne look like?

Cystic acne is caused by hormonal changes, genetics, and overproduction of oil in the skin. They appear as large, red, painful bumps beneath the skin's surface. They often don't have a whitehead or blackhead on top, but they can be tender to touch and take longer to heal compared to regular pimples.

What helps to clear acne?

Keeping your skin clean, having an effective skincare regimen, and keeping a healthy diet can help clear your acne. Consistent skincare routines with gentle cleansers and moisturizers in combination with targeted acne treatments (such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or medical grade topicals) are very effective. nIf you want to find and create the most ideal skincare routine for your skin type, consult with a provider for a customized, effective regimen.

What foods cause acne?

While food alone does not directly cause acne, some foods can exacerbate the condition. For example, high glycemic foods (foods high in simple sugars and carbohydrates) or dairy may contribute to acne flares. More research is necessary to better understand how specific foods impact acne.

How do you clear up acne?

The best acne treatment option for you will vary depending on the specific type of acne you have and the root cause of your breakouts. Some treatment options include topical retinoids, topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics, birth control spironolactone, or isotretinoin (Accutane). At Arlington Dermatology, we will carefully evaluate your skin and establish a customized treatment plan to address your acne.

How long does acne last?

Many people experience acne during puberty in their pre-teen and teenage years. However,nadults may also face acne in their twenties, thirties, and forties.

Is cystic acne hormonal?

A variety of factors can contribute to cystic acne, including hormonal changes during teenage years, increased stress, family history, and age. Hormonal acne can present as deeper nodules and cysts that persist for long periods of time.

What can I drink in the morning for clear skin?

Many studies have been performed on diet and acne. While the evidence is not as strong as what we have for prescription drugs given the inherent difficulty in monitoring diet in a study, diet is unarguably essential to health and thus skin health. Here are a few tips nWater: Start your day with a glass of water to hydrate your skin from within and flush out toxins.nGreen tea: It’s antioxidant properties can help reduce inflammation and protect against acne. nSmoothies: Blend fruits like berries, avocado, and spinach for a nutrient-packed drink that nourishes your skin from the inside out.

What Causes Acne?

Acne is caused by: hair follicles or pores that become clogged by dead skin cells, oil accumulation triggered by hormones, bacterial proliferation, and inflammation. In addition, factors including age, hormonal imbalance, medications side effects, and family history may increase your risk for developing acne.

What does stress acne look like?

Like other types of acne, acne caused by stress may present as clusters of small red-pink papules or pustules, whiteheads, or blackheads. Stress can lead to oil production, which in turn leads to clogged pores and acne breakouts. As such, acne from stress typically occurs on the oiliest parts of the face, such as the forehead, nose, and chin.


Schedule an Appointment 

Whether you want to prevent the occasional inconvenient pimple or address severe acne cysts or eliminate acne scars, our board-certified dermatologists are well-equipped to address your needs and will come up with a customized treatment plan for you.  

To schedule an appointment at Arlington Dermatology, call our office or request an appointment online.

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