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Whiteheads, blackheads and cysts are all forms of acne. According to the National Institutes of Health, acne occurs when the tiny holes in the skin, called pores, become clogged. When a pore becomes clogged, it can become infected. Your body sends additional blood and other healing agents to fight the infection. When blood accumulates around an potential threat, it becomes red and swollen. The resulting sore is called a pimple. When numerous pores are clogged, a whole area can become infected. Acne is unsightly and often painful.

Every inch of your skin contains pores, including the skin on your scalp, eyelids and ears. Each pore leads to a follicle that contains an oil-producing gland. If the gland produces too much oil, it can become clogged with dirt and old skin cells. If there is a pore, it can become blocked and acne can develop. Acne can appear anywhere on your body, but most often occurs on the face, neck and back.

Anyone can get acne, including babies and children. Seventy-five percent of teenagers get acne, mainly due to the hormonal changes that can increase oil production. Other hormonal changes can trigger an outbreak, including pregnancy, menstrual periods, and stress. Acne can appear after the use of greasy cosmetics, while in high humidity due to an increase in sweat production, and with the use of some drugs, such as steroids and hormone replacement therapy.

In many cases, acne clears up on its own. The pimple, or “zit,” goes through a cycle. After the pore become clogged, bacteria may attempt to grow in the area. Your body recognizes this as a threat and fights the infection with white blood cells and antibodies. Pus may appear where the dead cells accumulate. This causes the redness and swelling associated with most pimples. Once your body gains the upper hand, the bacteria die and the sore begins to heal. After a few days, the redness and swelling are gone and new cells take the place of the damaged ones. If the damage was only superficial, your skin returns to normal within a week or two with no visible evidence of the pimple.

However, in some cases, the infection goes deeper and the damage includes more than just the superficial layer of skin. Cysts and nodules are areas of infection that can form under the skin and often lead to scarring. Squeezing or attempting to “pop” a cyst or nodule can lead to a deeper, more long-lasting infection. Acne that is characterized by cysts or nodules often require medical treatment by a dermatologist to prevent life-long scarring.

If you experience acne that leaves scarring, you can minimize their appearance cosmetically or, in more severe cases, surgically.

These tips may help cover acne scars

1. For minor blemishes that have not healed, try an over-the-counter concealer in your natural skin tone or a shade lighter. Blemish stick may help reduce swelling and redness.

2. To reduce the deep redness associated with scarring, apply a concealer that has green undertones. The green pigment helps counteract the red from the excess blood in the area.

3. Professional make-up artists, such as Bobbi Brown, recommend covering scars with a base of foundation, followed by a concealer and topped off with a touch of powder. Some products are thick enough to fill in pock marks that cause an uneven complexion.

4. Visit a cosmetics counter in a major department store or a spa specializing in cosmetic application for professional make-up help. These experts can help you choose the right products for your skin type.

5. Over-the-counter microdermabrasion kits can help remove dead layers of superficial skin cells. Olay and Loreal sell effective one- and two-step kits. Other kits come with brushes and tools that help remove a deeper layer of cells.

6. If scarring is deep, a visit to a dermatologist may help. She may be able to prescribe medication that can minimize the appearance of redness or uneven tone.

7. Professional microdermabrasion and chemical peels performed by a dermatologist or a cosmetologist can help with minor, superficial acne marks and scarring. Microdermabrasion removes the top layer of skin using a fine spray of crystals while peels, such as a glycolic peel, removes the top layer with a chemical agent. These are often stronger than at-home microdermabrasion or peels and may leave the skin red or sensitive to the sun for several hours or days.

8. Professional dermabrasion is similar to microdermabrasion, but the peel removes deeper layers of skin and requires a longer recovery time. Dermabrasion can help remove deeper scarring and help resurface the skin. Treatments, such as Laser Genesis, can help stimulate collagen production, which can improve the appearance and texture of skin.

9. Laser procedures can help with moderate to severe acne scarring. Laser wound healing and photodynamic therapy are both minimally-invasive procedures that use light and laser technology to target certain types of skin cells for selective destruction. These procedures are performed by experienced medical technicians and can be painful.

10. With extreme scarring and disfiguration, cosmetic surgeons can completely resurface the skin of your face or use an injectable filler to correct axe pick holes or deep fissures and craters. A number of injectable fillers, such as silicone and fat, can be used to fill in depressed areas and several are often combined to achieve the best results. These procedures can be expensive and may not provide a permanent solution.