How Bad Is Your Acne?

7 Key Questions to Ask Yourself

Woman with adult acne
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Acne is a skin condition that affects the oil glands and hair follicles, which are connected under the surface of the skin. When dead skin cells, hair, and oil (called sebum) clump together within a follicle, they can create a plug. Bacteria in the plug can then cause swelling. When the plug starts to break down, a pimple forms.

When it comes to acne, the occasional zit or constellation of blackheads (plugs of gunk under the skin that haven't been affected by bacteria) are one thing.

With more vigilant face washing and a dab of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid that you can buy over the counter at the drugstore, within a day or so you'll be in the clear.

But what if you're constantly breaking out or frequently have unsightly blemishes, or you have pimples or painful nodules on areas of your body besides your face? That's another thing altogether. It may mean your acne is severe and you'll need more aggressive treatment. For instance, acne that's caused by a hormonal balance sometimes responds well to oral contraceptives.

A Mini Quiz for Rating Your Acne

To get an idea of how bad your acne is, ask yourself the following seven questions. Then make an appointment with a dermatologist to get an official diagnosis. Even if you have only mild to moderate acne, he can guide you to OTC products to try. And if your acne is severe, he can create a treatment plan that's tailored for you.

1. What percentage of your face would you say is covered in acne scars?

a. More than 25 percent

b. Between 10 percent and 25 percent

c. Less than 10 percent

d. I don't have any acne scars

2. How often do you have deep, painful nodules on your face?

a. Every day

b. For a week or two each month

c. Every couple of months

d. Never

3. How often do you have painful nodules on areas of your body other than your face?

a. Every day

b. For a week or two each month

c. Every couple of months

d. Never

4. How much of your face is covered with pus-filled blemishes?

a. More than 25 percent

b. Between 10 percent and 25 percent

c. Less than 10 percent

d. I don't have any red bumps that are filled with pus

5. What percentage of your face is covered with blackheads or whiteheads?  

a. More than 25 percent

b. Between 10 percent and 25 percent

c. Less than 10 percent

d. I don't have blackhead or whiteheads

6. How much of your face is covered with red blemishes without pus?

a. More than 25 percent

b. Between 10 percent and 25 percent

c. Less than 10 percent

d. I don't have any red bumps without pus

7. How often do you have red bumps without pus?

a. Every day

b. For one to two weeks every month

c. Every couple of months

d. Never

What Your Answers May Mean

If you had mostly a's, your acne is likely in the severe range. If most of your answers fell into the middle categories, b's and c's, your acne probably would be categorized as moderate. Mostly d's indicates mild acne. 

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