What is Acne Vulgaris?

Teenage boy cleaning his acne

You've just seen your doctor about your skin problem.  The diagnosis: acne vulgaris.

Wait, what?  You thought you just had run-of-the-mill pimples. 

Actually, the more you think about it, you start to get nervous.  You've never heard of this type of acne before.  What is acne vulgaris?  And how did you get it?

Acne vulgaris is your common acne.

Relax, you don't have a strange form of acne. In fact, quite the opposite.

Acne vulgaris is the term used to describe good ol' common acne. Rest assured, most people have suffered from acne vulgaris at some point in their lives.

People with acne vulgaris get blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples (zits). Acne vulgaris may be mild for some people, with just a few blemishes here and there. For others, acne vulgaris becomes more severe.

Breakouts aren't always limited to the face. You may find yourself breaking out on the neck, chest, back, shoulders, maybe even on your bum.  Rest assured, body acne is normal, too.

Many factors contribute to acne vulgaris.

First off, know that you didn't do anything to cause your acne.  Acne isn't caused by bad hygiene, or touching your face

You didn't catch it from someone else, either.  Acne is not contagious.

Acne vulgaris appears because oil and skin cells become trapped in your skin's pores. The acne-causing bacteria, propionibacteria acnes, also plays a role, irritating the skin and causing inflamed pimples.

What you're eating isn't causing acne vulgaris either, although some doctors now theorize that certain foods may worsen existing acne cases. The most commonly linked foods include dairy and carbohydrates.

Acne tends to run in families, so if your parents or siblings had it, you're more likely to get it too.

And it's is not just a teenage problem.  Acne can occur at most any age, from preteens through adult.  Many who sailed through high school without a blemish find they start breaking out for the first time well into adulthood.

You can treat your acne vulgaris.

Acne vulgaris isn't a fun problem to have, but it is treatable. Your doctor can give you a prescription medication that will help. If your acne is fairly mild, you may even be able to get it under control with over-the-counter products.

Even though acne vulgaris is common, you don't want to ignore it. Mild cases sometimes progress into more serious forms. Severe acne can damage the skin to the point of scarring. It's a great reason to start treatment now.

Next Steps:

All About Acne Vulgaris

Preteen Acne Help

Everything You Need to Know About Teen Acne

Adult Acne: The Basics and Beyond


Lavers I.  "Therapeutic strategies for acne vulgaris."  Nurs Times. 2013 Dec 4-10;109(48):16-8.

United States. NIAMS. "Questions and Answers About Acne." Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, 2006.

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