Acne is a common condition usually starting in adolescence. Acne occurs primarily on the face but may involve the upper chest, back and shoulders. It is generally self-limited but may last for years into adulthood. Acne results from the plugging of oil gland pores with sloughed off dead skin cells and bacteria. Its occurrence is probably most dependent on genetic predisposition and the influence of androgens (sex hormone) on the skin’s sebum or oil producing pores.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Blackheads (open comedones)
  • Non-tender or mildly tender pink bumps or papules, commonly referred to as “pimples”
  • Tender pustules
  • Firmer or nodulocystic lesions, which often can leave scars or spots of red or brown discoloration which can last a long time.


  • Acne tends to worsen if one is tired, sick or under a lot of stress. Therefore, try to maintain a nutritious diet with regular mealtimes, regular hours of sufficient sleep, and regular exercise.
  • Avoidance of chemicals which put stress on the body, such as excess caffeine, nicotine, street drugs, steroid drugs and excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Avoid ingestion of excessive amounts of iodides and fluorides as in shellfish, kelp, iodized salt & certain multi-vitamin preparations.
  • Injury to the skin should be avoided such as squeezing, picking and too vigorous scrubbing.
  • Avoid sitting or sleeping with one’s face in the hands
  • Avoid leaving tight, sweaty clothes on for a long time
  • Any skin care product one uses should be labeled “Non-comedogenic”


  • On average, the retinoid medications such as tretinoin (Retin A), Differin and Tazorac are the most effective at preventing plugging of the pores, but many cases respond well to benzoyl peroxides, sulfur containing lotions, or azelaic acid.
  • Antibiotics applied to the skin or taken by mouth. Antibiotics taken orally should not be relied on for long-term treatment.
  • When acne can’t be controlled without continuous antibiotics, it is better to consider a course of a more powerful oral retinoid medicine, Isotretinoin (Accutane or Amnesteem). It is very expensive and has the potential for very many side effects.

How We Can Help

  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.
  • Over the counter (OTC) products to control the acne are available for purchase at our Pharmacy, which is located on the first floor of the UC Davis Student Health & Wellness Center.