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Acne Decision Aid

  • 1. Introduction

    Learn more about acne.

  • 2. My Options

    Read about available treatments.

  • 3. My Skin

    Learn about your acne.

  • 4. My Values

    Express what is important to you.

  • 5. My Trade-offs

    Compare treatments with your values.

  • 6. My Decision

    Your results and next steps.


What is an Acne Patient Decision Aid?

Patient decision aids are tools to help patients and doctors make healthcare decisions together. This decision aid is for people making decisions about how to manage their acne. It explains the treatments available for acne in the United States and Canada and helps clarify the values that are important for choosing an acne treatment.

If you want to know more about acne and compare your available options, this decision aid can help.

  • What is acne?+

    Acne is a disease of the oil glands and pores in our skin. These pores can become clogged and cause acne. Acne usually appears on the face and neck but it can also affect the chest, back, and shoulders.

    Whiteheads: look like skin-coloured bumps.

    Blackheads: look like black or grey bumps.

    Papules: are red, swollen, and painful bumps.

    Pustules: are red, swollen, and painful bumps filled with pus.

    Nodules: are large and swollen bumps that feel hard to the touch and form deep under the surface.

    Cysts: are large and swollen bumps that form deep under the surface and are filled with pus.

  • What causes my acne?+

    There are many reasons why you might get acne:

    • Genetics: If your parents had acne you are more likely to have acne.
    • Skin cell turnover: Our skin is always being replaced; we shed old skin cells as new ones grow. Sometimes the skin cells that have been shed clog the pore openings and lead to acne.
    • Sebum (oil) production: When pores are clogged oil gets trapped in the pores which can trigger inflammation leading to acne.
    • Hormones: Hormones called androgens increase during puberty and lead to larger oil glands, more oil production, and acne.
    • Bacteria: When the pores are clogged bacteria get trapped in the pores, which can trigger inflammation leading to acne.
    • Greasy make-up or skin products: These products can clog pores and increase oil on the skin.
  • How many people have acne?+
    Example of pustules
    Example of pustules

    Acne is one of the most common skin diseases. Nearly all of us (80-100 out of every 100 people) have acne at some time in our lives. Most people have mild acne, but some (15 of every 100) will have moderate to severe acne. It is most common in teenagers and young adults, but can also carry-over or start in adulthood.

    • In the USA, about 50 million Americans have acne at any one time.
    • In Canada, about 6 million Canadians have acne at any one time.
  • What happens when I have acne?+

    Acne can cause soreness, pain, itching, scarring, and change the skin colour at the affected area. Some people with acne have depression and anxiety. Some people may feel ashamed or embarrassed because of their skin, and might feel uncomfortable in social situations. It is important to talk about these feelings with your doctor too.

  • How do I fix it?+
    Example of acne scarring on cheek
    Example of acne scarring on cheek

    There are lots of ways to treat acne. Early treatment is the best way to prevent scarring. Here are some things you can do to treat your acne at home:

    • Learn about acne and how to manage it.
    • Wash with warm water and a mild cleanser in the morning and at night, and also after exercising or sweating.
    • Be careful not to wash your face too often or scrub with harsh cleansers. This can irritate your skin and make acne worse.
    • Stay sun-protected: wear sunscreen and hats, especially when using acne facewashes, cleansers, or creams and gels (these treatments can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight).
    • Check your drug store for skin products and make-up that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, won't clog pores, or are made specifically for acne prone skin.
    • Avoid tight clothing, helmets, or hats that rub on the skin and can irritate your current acne.

    Acne Scarring

    If you have scars left by acne, there are treatments available to reduce those scars. Treatments include chemical peels, fillers, minor skin surgeries, and laser treatments. Certain treatments are better for different types of scars. Doctors can often perform these treatments in their medical offices. Talk to your doctor about which treatment is best for you.

    Before having treatment for scarring, it is important to clear your acne. New acne breakouts can lead to new acne scars. This patient decision aid is primarily for treating acne spots. If treating acne scars is also important to you, be sure to mention this to your doctor.

  • Should I see my doctor?+

    If you have questions about your acne you can learn more with this patient decision aid and by clicking the links below. You and your doctor or healthcare professional will decide what option is right for you.

    You might want to visit your doctor especially if:

    • Your acne is painful
    • Your acne is on your torso
    • Standard treatments are not working for you
    • You feel depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed because of your acne
    • Your acne is suddenly getting worse
    • Your acne is leaving scars
  • More Info+

Last Updated: May 2017