Make an Appointment


Dermatology Services: Acne Care and Treatment

What is acne?

Acne is a skin condition that results in plugged pores, pimples and, in more serious cases, inflamed patches of skin and painful cysts. These can appear on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, back and upper arms.

Acne occurs when pores on the skin’s surface become clogged with a buildup of oil (sebum) produced by glands in hair follicles with a mix of dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria.

Acne most often begins in puberty as teenagers experience hormonal changes that can make their skin produce more oil. But anyone can get acne, including babies and adults well into their 40s and 50s.

In fact, acne is the most common U.S. skin disorder, affecting more than 80 percent of Americans during their lifetime. For some, it is a relatively mild condition. For many others, acne can be so severe that it causes scarring and requires medical treatment by a dermatologist.

Our UC Irvine Health dermatologists are skilled in treating all skin conditions, including acne. They are well versed in the latest therapies and treatment options, which include topical and oral medication, antibiotics and laser therapy.

To schedule a consultation, please call us at 949-824-0606.

Getting rid of acne

There are measures you can take to clear acne outbreaks.


  • Cleanse your skin gently once or twice a day with a mild, nondrying soap and warm water to remove dirt and makeup. Avoid scrubbing too vigorously, which can irritate the skin and make the acne worse.
  • Wash after exercising to prevent oil and sweat buildup.
  • Shampoo hair regularly — daily, if it tends to be oily — and  keep hair combed or pulled away from the face and neck.
  • Use oil-free sunblock, creams and cosmetics.


  • Squeeze, pop or pick at acne outbreaks, which can cause scarring
  • Use alcohol-based astringents that can strip your skin of natural moisture
  • Use oily or greasy creams or sunblock
  • Wear tight caps, headbands or other head gear
  • Touch your face without cleaning your hands and fingers first

Topical treatments

If your acne is still a problem, there are over-the-counter acne medications that can be applied to the affected areas. These may include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Resorcinol
  • Sulfur
  • Salicylic acid

These products work by killing acne-causing bacteria on the skin, drying up skin oils or causing the top layer of skin to peel away. Use the medication as directed and allow six to eight weeks to see improvement. 

Persistent acne

If these methods don't improve or clear up your acne, a dermatologist can prescribe stronger medications and offer additional options.

Some people are helped by medications that target the acne-causing bacteria, including:

  • Oral antibiotics such as tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, erythromycin, trimethoprim and amoxicillin
  • Topical antibiotics such as clindamycin, erythromycin and dapsone

Your dermatologist also may prescribe:

  • Prescription formulations of benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid or sulfur
  • Retinoic acid cream or gel (tretinoin, Retin-A)
  • Topical azelaic acid

In severe cases of cystic acne and scarring, your dermatologist may prescribe isotretinoin (Accutane), which requires close monitoring because it can have severe side effects, including causing birth defects.

Other procedures have been helpful in some cases. These include:

  • Chemical skin peels
  • Cortisone injects of severe cysts
  • A laser procedure called photodynamic therapy
  • Microdermabrasion to remove or lessen the appearance of scars

Acne scarring

For patients with severe scarring, our expert cosmetic surgeons are skilled in a variety of procedures, including laser surgery, to improve the appearance of acne scars.

Learn more about our acne scar revision treatments >

Make an Appointment