$35 for two-month supply of Relogy Natural Acne Treatment Kit (a $70 value)
Learn how to prolong the results with our close look at acne.
Acne: From A to Zit
Pores have many important jobs: emitting sweat, sprouting hair, producing sebum to keep the hair and skin soft, waterproof, and pettable. But when they get clogged with dirt, dead cells, and other debris, they become a breeding ground for acne. The skin's natural oils may get trapped under the plug, causing a raised bump called a blackhead (when the pore is large and open enough that the material inside gets oxidized) or whitehead (when the pore is nearly closed).
This comedonal acne isn't painful, or even particularly noticeable. But if the bumps get irritated, or fill with bacteria-fighting pus, then you've got inflammatory acne_—the big, red pimples that keep sitcom characters home from prom. Even more severe is _cystic acne, which occurs when the built-up oils rupture the follicle wall, spreading bacteria deep under the skin. This type of acne takes longer to go away, and penetrates far down enough to damage collagen in the dermis, leading to the "ice-pick" pitting associated with acne scars.
Most people experience comedonal and inflammatory acne at some point in their lives, particularly during adolescence. Though they might be a nuisance, these skin-deep zits generally don't scar, and can be treated with over-the-counter products, some of which can even be incorporated into a spa facial. (Look for products that use pore-clearing salicylic acid if you've got blackheads and whiteheads, or bacteria-killing benzoyl peroxide if you're dealing with redness and pus.) It's also sometimes possible to clear up acne through a change in habits, since outbreaks may be caused by environmental factors such as being in the sun too much or using beauty products that irritate the skin.