Acne is caused by overactive oil-producing, or sebaceous, glands that start producing more sebum.  The excess sebum can clog pores, which leads to inflammation, redness, and swelling.  This usually begins at puberty, and can last a couple of years, or it may continue into adulthood.  As well, some babies develop acne shortly after birth.  Heredity can be a factor in determining who gets acne and how severe - if either of your parents had acne, you are more likely to develop acne too.

There are three levels of severity with acne:

Mild to moderate acne can usually be treated with topical over-the-counter products.  More severe, stubborn, or widespread acne may need to be treated by a physician.  Seeking treatment sooner rather than later is important to getting acne under control.  Even mild acne can potentially lead to scarring, and there's no way of predicting if mild acne will progress to becoming more severe over time or continue into adulthood.  Most acne treatments aim to decrease sebum production, kill acne bacteria, help to normalize skin shedding, and fight inflammation.  Treatments can come as both nonprescription (over-the-counter) medications, and prescription medications.

For mild acne, you can usually try nonprescription (over-the-counter) medications before turning to your doctor for help.  Over-the-counter (OTC) products are usually milder than prescription-strength medications, and are also readily accessible.  OTC acne treatments include medicated cleansers, topical creams, and gels.  Usual active ingredients in OTC treatments usually include salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.  Salicylic acid is used for anti-inflammatory and peeling action.  Benzoyl peroxide causes drying and slight peeling, and also kills bacteria.  

If nonprescription medications are not enough to treat your acne, you may want to talk to your doctor about prescription medications.  Some common prescription medications used to treat acne are:

A number of factors can trigger an acne flare up or lead to breakouts, and these can vary from person to person.  Some common factors are:

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