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.

Menu of Services

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. 

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


How do you clear up acne?

Acne is caused by clogged pores, subsequent oil accumulation, concurrent bacterial proliferation, and resulting inflammation. The best way to clear an active acne breakout is to avoid touching or popping pimples, keep your face clean, and use gentle products that keep oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria from building up.

How long does acne last?

Specific acne breakouts can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Most people start experiencing acne during puberty, and teenage acne usually lasts between five and 10 years before it starts clearing up on its own. Adult acne is also very common.

Should I use benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide have powerful anti-acne properties. Salicylic acid breaks up skin cells to prevent pore occlusion, the first step in acne. Benzoyl peroxide not only breaks up skin cells but also acts to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. Both can be very drying. Recommendations for use depends largely on how oily or sensitive your skin is.

Is cystic acne hormonal?

All acne is hormonal. Hormonal receptors residing on the sebaceous glands associated with skin pores are turned on during the hormonal fluctuations of adolescence and result in increased oil production. Likewise, hormonal fluctuations during a menstrual cycle can trigger acne in female patients in their thirties and forties.


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.

Stay up-to-date on skincare tips, special offers, and more by joining us on Instagram.