Also known as: pimps, zits, blackheads, whiteheads, acne vulgaris

What is acne?

Acne is a very common skin problem of children and teenagers, mostly 11 years of age and older, but can be earlier as puberty starts earlier or later in some cases. The oil, known as sebum, in the glands around the base of a hair follicle can't reach the surface of the skin because the pores, tiny holes on the skin that allow it to reach the surface of the skin are blocked, plugged, or clogged by dead skin and oils.

This plug/pimple is called a comedone which may be open, known as blackheads, or closed, known as whiteheads. These may be infected by bacteria on the skin which may result in red painful bumps or sores called pustules, or present as papules, nodules, or cysts.

What causes acne?

Acne usually begins around puberty as during that time male sex hormones increase in both boys and girls resulting in increased production of sebum and dead skin. Acne often occurs in families so a genetic predisposition may be present. Other contributing causes include certain drugs (corticosteroids), wearing irritating clothes, using makeup that can block the pores, increased humidity, and stress.

What are the symptoms of acne?

Acne can occur anywhere there are sebaceous glands present, most commonly on the face, chest, upper back and neck. Symptoms include whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, nodules, or solid raised bumps, pustules, or papules. They can be white, black, or red in appearance. Some children with severe acne may be left with permanent scarring of the skin.

What are acne care options?

There are many over-the counter topical, oral prescribed medications, and therapies for acne depending on your child's age, symptoms, and severity. 

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: August 31, 2021 03:25 PM

Children's Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital focuses on the latest medications and technology available for the specialized treatment of all skin diseases and disorders affecting children of all ages.

Learn More