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Diagnosing Acne

Acne breakouts are caused by clogged or infected pores, which are the small openings in your skin where hair emerges. Pores also excrete oil to moisturize skin. When glands beneath these pores produce too much oil, pores can clog, causing blemishes to form on the surface of the skin. Clogged, oil-filled pores are also breeding grounds for bacteria, which can lead to an infection that makes acne even worse. 

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At NYU Langone, experts understand that acne is sometimes a socially sensitive condition. A proper diagnosis of the type or types of blemishes affecting you is the first step toward clear skin. Dermatologists at NYU Langone have seen every kind of acne and can identify which is causing your symptoms just by looking at your skin.

Physical Examination

During your first appointment with one of our dermatologists, he or she conducts a thorough examination of your skin to determine what kind of blemishes you have and how much of your skin is affected. Dermatologists suggest that women avoid wearing makeup to the exam, so blemishes can be examined as they appear naturally. This exam is completely painless and takes about 15 minutes. 

Your dermatologist may ask a variety of questions about your symptoms, including when and how frequently you have breakouts, what kind of blemishes you have most often, if acne runs in your family, and what treatments you may have already tried. Because hormones are a frequent cause of acne, women may be asked questions about their menstrual cycle or about the possibility that pregnancy or menopause may be causing the breakouts. This information helps your doctor to determine what is causing your breakouts and which treatments may be most effective. 

Although acne is common among adolescents, blemishes are unusual in children younger than 10 years old. If acne appears on a younger child’s skin, a dermatologist may recommend a blood test to determine if there is a hormonal imbalance responsible. This test can be conducted in a doctor’s office.

Our Research and Education in Acne

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.