There’s something kind of exciting about discovering acne in a new, previously unblemished part of your face, like, say, in your ear. Acne that crops up around the opening to the ear canal or in the hollow (also known as the concha) of the ear might be a rare occurrence for most people, but once it happens to you it’s almost impossible to ignore.
Luckily, dealing with ear pimples is relatively straightforward once you know what’s causing them.
What causes a pimple in your ear?
A pimple forms when pores get clogged by some combination of oil, bacteria, and dead skin. So it makes sense that two key causes of acne are hormones, which can affect the amount of oil (sebum) your skin products, and the skin’s natural propensity to build up oil and dead skin cells, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. As a result, areas with higher concentrations of oil glands, he explains, are more likely to develop acne: “This typically means the T-zone of the face, chest, back, and even the ears.”
When it comes to pimples inside the ear, another factor that can play a huge role is occlusion, Robert Anolik, M.D., a clinical assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone. Occlusion is a term used to describe any instance in which the skin is physically blocked and unable to shed dead skin normally, leading to a breakout.
For example, anyone who’s had pimples right along their eyeglasses line has experienced acne due to occlusion. In the same way that your glasses can press down on your skin and trap oil, makeup, and dirt, so too can your earbuds.
“In the case of earbuds, this contact between the plastic or rubber and the skin’s surface [is] essentially trapping the contents inside the pore and occluding it,” Dr. Anolik says. “That restrained exit of the contents [of the pore] can build up, creating papules and cysts.” He adds that having excess earwax can actually have the same occluding effect and contributing to acne as well.
For the record, you should speak with your dermatologist if you notice painful, cystic acne in your ears—or anywhere else, for that matter. This severe form of acne often warrants prescription treatments and, if left alone, can lead to scarring. In addition to cysts and hard, red papules, you can also get blackheads around the ear, particularly above the opening to the ear canal, in the concha area, Dr. Zeichner says.
If you tend to break out in your ears pretty frequently, your earbuds are the likely culprit, but it’s also possible that your skin is simply more inclined to overproduce oil in that area (Dr. Anolik says some people can wear earbuds as much as they want without seeing any pimples in their ear).
What looks like an ear pimple might not actually be acne.
Even if you’re a chronic earbud user, don’t assume that that bump in your ear is acne. Dr. Anolik says that it could very well be seborrheic dermatitis, a rash that, like acne, tends to occur wherever there’s a high concentration of oil glands.
That said, seborrheic dermatitis won’t have as many isolated bumps as acne. Instead, it’ll look like a pink or red rash with flaking scales. In some cases, it can cause itchy raised bumps, sort of like a pimple but not quite. He adds that there’s also a chance that you could mistake an itchy fungal infection or even a painful, tender staph infection for acne, which would be even worse to ignore.
Pimple in Ear: How It Happens and How to Treat It
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Is this normal?
Acne is generally seen as an adolescent issue, but it’s common across all age groups.
Nearly 50 million people in the United States have acne at any given time. It’s the most common skin condition in the country.
Pimples can form anywhere, though they primarily affect the areas with the most oil glands. This includes your face and your back.
It’s not uncommon for pimples to form inside of your ear, too. Pimples in your ear can usually be treated at home without guidance from your doctor.
We’ll cover more about what causes pimples to form in your ear and how to make them go away.
What causes a pimple to form in the ear?
Acne is a broad term that describes a variety of skin conditions. It refers to everything from whiteheads and blackheads to cysts and nodules.
A whitehead occurs when oil, or sebum, clogs a pore. A blackhead occurs when sebum is exposed to air and turns dark. The sac under the skin can break, become irritated, or even infected, leading to the formation of cysts and nodules.
Acne in its various forms can appear in your ear, like in the outer ear (auricle) and the external ear canal. The skin of the outer ear covers cartilage and a small amount of fat. The skin of the ear canal has hair cells as well as glands that produce oil and ear wax.
If these glands produce too much oil, it may cause acne to form in your ear. This can also happen when dead skin cells or bacteria build up in your pores.
When these things happen, you may develop a pimple in the affected area. A pimple will form in your ear if the oil is unable to escape or bacteria grows in a clogged pore.
A buildup in bacteria can be caused by a few things, such as sticking your finger in your ear or using earbuds or headphones that aren’t cleaned often.
Other causes of acne include stress and a hormonal imbalance.
The same things that cause acne elsewhere on the body can also cause pimples in the ear. However, due to the sensitive nature of the ear, acne in this location has to be treated with care.
Is it safe to pop a pimple that’s formed in my ear?
Although it may be tempting to pop or squeeze the pimple, you should avoid this at all costs. This may get rid of the blemish, or it could make it much worse.
Squeezing the pimple can force bacteria and pus deeper into your pores. This may cause the area to become more irritated and inflamed. If you do squeeze the pimple and pus comes out, the area will scab. This trauma may encourage a scar to develop.
If the pimple gets infected, it can become a boil. These pus-filled bumps are generally painful and can often be treated with the same methods as pimples.
A pimple can turn into a boil on its own too. It can also happen because of trauma to the area as a result of picking, poking, and squeezing.
How are pimples in the ear typically treated?
You can try a warm compress to loosen and soften any existing pimples. The heat may help bring the pus to the surface and allow it to drain out on its own.
If this happens, be sure to clean up the liquid quickly but cautiously. You don’t want to irritate the affected area any further, and you don’t want the bacteria to spread. Be sure to wash the area thoroughly.
If you have persistent or painful breakouts, you should consult your doctor. They’ll assess your acne and give it one of these “grades”:
Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan best suited to your needs. Your treatment may include:
Acne lesions, particularly those caused by severe acne, can be painful. Appropriate and prompt treatment can begin with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Naprosyn). Your doctor may also recommend prescription drugs if these options aren’t effective.
The various treatments for acne can have complicated and serious interactions. For example, some research shows that antibiotics can lower the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives. Sensitivity to the sun is more likely with some antibiotics, vitamin A compounds, and NSAIDs.
Did you know?
Acne treatments can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to produce noticeable differences.
What else could it be?
Acne can appear anywhere, and it’s easy for a lesion on the ear to remain tucked away or out of sight for an extended period of time. However, it’s also possible that the bump in or on your ear is the result of another condition.
Possible conditions that may resemble a pimple include:
- Granuloma fissuratum. These tender, red patches of skin are usually caused by wearing glasses.
- Keloid.Keloids are red or purple nodules that are often associated with small excisions.
- Seborrheic keratosis.Seborrheic keratosis is a type of skin growth that appears as a flat, light brown lesion.
- Epidermoid cyst. Epidermoid cysts are small, slow-growing bumps that form beneath the skin. They’re sometimes mistakenly referred to as sebaceous cysts.
- Basal cell carcinoma. Tumors caused by this type of skin cancer may be mistaken for persistent pimples.
It’s important to seek medical attention if the bump or surrounding area is painful, irritated, or persistent. Lesions that don’t respond to typical acne treatments may not be acne and should also be seen by a doctor.
In a 2012 study involving Indian people who came to a doctor with dermatological conditions of the ear, the most common diagnoses were tinea facei (ringworm), psoriasis, and herpes zoster (shingles).
Acne was rare, only accounting for about 1 percent of the diagnoses. The prevalence of acne may be different for other ethnic groups, though.
Acne and breakouts are possibly the worst thing ever! Having a pimple pop up is always an inconvenience that we want to cover up. But if these pimples return regularly around the same spot, there is a reason for it. These reasons behind the location of your breakouts may be more serious than you think and require you to acknowledge and treat them. It is also important to take external factors into account. Your skin can tell you a lot about your health, so read on to learn the meaning behind the location of your breakouts.
Location of Your Breakouts: Face Outline
Face mapping is the method of linking the effects of facial breakouts with causes from your internal organs. The edges of your face include your hairline, ears, and jawline. These areas may be prone acne for you due to bacteria buildup. This can stem from beauty products that are not fully washed off or are not the best match for your skin type.
Hairline & Forehead
Breakouts on your forehead can be caused by hair products that tend to be greasy or have “leave in” formulas like dry shampoo, especially if you have bangs. If you don’t think makeup and hair care are the source of your hairline breakouts, stress and sleep deprivation are most likely the culprits.
Pimples near or on your ears are usually signs of dehydration. In this case, stay hydrated with water and cut down on caffeinated drinks like soda and coffee.
Chin & Jawline
If you keep getting pimples on your chin or jawline, it is correlation with a hormonal imbalance. They mostly likely pop up around “that time” of the month. This is nothing to worry about but it is something to understand and keep in mind. Sleep, water, and vegetables should help reduce your chance of a breakout.
Breakout Location: T-Zone
The T-zone area, which spans from your forehead right above your eyebrows down your nose and to your chin, is where most people break out. The meaning behind it is that this area has the most oil glands. It is more likely that you will get blackheads in this area rather than pimples.
A pimple or multiple smaller pimples in between your eyebrows can be a sign of allergies. For example, these breakouts may represent lactose intolerance or the inability to break down fast food. Breakouts may also show up here after getting an eyebrow wax because it is a sensitive area, so keep that in mind.
When a breakout appears on your nose, there are likely many reasons behind it. Heavy or oily makeup products can cause breakouts. Expired makeup could also cause them so you should update your cosmetics. Look at the expiration information on packaging to prevent this. Eating large amounts of meat and spicy food could actually also be a possibility.
Breakout Location: Cheeks
Constant breakouts on your cheeks can happen from many different factors, depending on your lifestyle. They can stem from the internal factors produced after eating too much sugar or smoking. Dirty makeup brushes and applicators may also be consistently rubbing bacteria on your cheeks with every use. Cell phones carry a considerably high amount of bacteria, so if you don’t clean yours regularly, making a simple phone call can brew up a breakout.
The location of your breakouts may display internal concerns on the skin’s surface. Your diet, hormonal levels, and built up stress are all possible factors that may need to be identified and treated by a dermatologist. Unsanitary product practices are also deciding factors in how your skin reacts. If you don’t think your breakouts are linked to care products or applicators and you are concerned, you should contact your doctor. Also, If you change up your routine to find the reasoning of your acne and it doesn’t get better within a few weeks, you should make a doctor’s appointment to learn about treatments and solutions.
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VictoriaTags:acne, beauty products, breakouts, face, face mapping, forehead, hair, location, makeup, nose, pimples, Skin, t-zone
Victoria Montalti is an undergraduate student at LIM College where she majors in Fashion Media. She is the Editorial Intern for Glam & Gowns.
Acne can be sneaky, seemingly popping up whenever — and wherever — it can. While it would be nice if blackheads and blemishes could just stay in one place, unfortunately, acne doesn't discriminate when it comes to placement. And, if you've ever had a breakout in or around your ears, you're probably familiar with the distinct pain that is ear acne.
When we say "pain," we mean it — this stuff hurts. "Bacteria in and around the ear can cause infection [and] inflammation, which can lead to pain," says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon in New York City. "Additionally, because the skin of the ear is thin, the underlying cartilage can also become inflamed leading to chondritis, which is extremely painful." In other words, yes, ear pimples really do hurt more.
Although most of us associate breakouts with the T-zone, the ears are actually incredibly fertile ground for acne. As Dr. Engleman says, the earlobes and conchal bowls (the round, concave parts of the outer ear) are filled with sebaceous glands. Because those pores are so small, they're easily clogged, and bacteria can go to town. "If the bacterial load is significant and inflammatory response ensues, redness and pain follow," Dr. Engleman explains.
As for banishing zits from your ears? First, the bad news: Your hair care may be a culprit. "Hair conditioners, gels, and sprays can clog pores in this region and induce or worsen ear acne," says Dr. Engleman. So, be sure to clean your ears after applying conditioner, gels, sprays, and other styling products. Otherwise, think of your ears as you do the skin on your face, and care for them.
To prevent clogged pores, Dr. Engleman recommends wiping the inner and outer parts of the ear with a cotton dipped in alcohol or witch hazel. Look for over-the-counter treatments with ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or tea tree oil to combat breakouts. (We like Clearasil's Daily Clear refreshing pads, which have salicylic acid.) In more serious cases, your derm may prescribe a prescription such as tretinoin or topical antibiotics. And, though it should go without saying, if you have an extremely painful blemish, one that lasts for more than a week, or a zit that's draining fluid, get to a dermatologist ASAP. Because while acne is never fun, it shouldn't have to be such a pain in the...ear.
Ear pimple meaning in
Pimple on the earlobe: Why does it happen?
Pimples can form on any area of skin that has oil-secreting pores, including the earlobes.
Beneath the skin’s surface are glands that produce an oily substance that keeps the skin moist. This substance is called sebum.
Sebum travels to the surface through pores in the skin. When the glands produce an excess of sebum, it can collect and mix with dead skin cells to clog the pores. This can lead to blemishes, such as pimples.
Clogged pores can be ideal homes for Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria. Growing numbers of these bacteria can lead to inflammation, causing blemishes to become red, painful, or otherwise uncomfortable.
Sometimes, this process occurs in the skin of the earlobe.
Below, we look at what other factors contribute to pimples forming on the earlobe, as well as how to get rid of them and prevent them from returning.
Clogged pores can lead to several types of pimple, including:
- whiteheads — closed blemishes with white or yellowish centers
- blackheads — open plugged pores with black tops
- papules — small red bumps that may feel tender
- pustules — small red bumps with white, pus-filled tops
- nodules — large, firm bumps deep within the skin
- cysts — large, painful, pus-filled lumps within the skin
These pimples form when dead skin cells, sebum, and sometimes bacteria clog the pores.
In the case of papules and pustules, the blockage includes bacteria and breaks down the walls of the pore, so that the pimple forms deeper within the skin and becomes larger than a whitehead or blackhead.
Nodules and cysts form due to severe irritation of the pore, resulting in a bigger, deeper, more inflamed bump or lump.
Certain factors make pimples more likely to form, on the earlobes or other areas:
- Age: Pimples are most common in teenage years, but they can develop at any age.
- Hormones: Fluctuations —during pregnancy or from birth control, for example — can affect sebum production.
- Medications: Any that contain corticosteroids, androgens, or lithium can trigger pimples.
- Family history: Genetics can play a role.
- Oily products: Grease, skin creams, hair products, and cosmetics can clog the pores.
- Pressure or friction: Contact from clothing and things like headbands, helmets, and even cellphones can contribute to pimples.
Treatment for pimples, on the earlobe or elsewhere, depends on their severity.
Most whiteheads and blackheads go away without treatment. However, for other types of pimple, or for severe or persistent pimples, and home remedies can help.
Over-the-counter creams, gels, and lotions can reduce mild outbreaks of blemishes. Effective treatments may contain:
- benzoyl peroxide, which can reduce sebum production and kill P. acnes bacteria
- resorcinol, which may break down whiteheads and blackheads
- salicylic acid, which helps unclog pores and reduce inflammation
- sulfur, which can unblock pores and kill P.acnes
A doctor can prescribe treatments for more severe or persistent pimples. These treatments may be:
- antibiotics, which can reduce bacteria populations and inflammation
- retinoids, which help unplug pores
- drainage and extraction, a procedure to remove cysts
- steroid injections, which help treat nodules and cysts
Some home remedies and care strategies can help get rid of a pimple on the earlobe or at least reduce its size. A person might:
- Apply a warm compress: The heat can help open the pore and support the release of the buildup.
- Use tea tree oil: Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties can help, but make sure to dilute it before applying it to the skin.
- Apply an ice pack: The cold can reduce any inflammation and pain after pore is unblocked.
Never pop or squeeze a pimple. Doing so can push the blockage further into the skin and worsen inflammation. It can also lead to:
- a more noticeable pimple
To prevent pimples from forming, on the earlobe or elsewhere:
- Wash the area twice a day: This will help keep a lot of dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria from building up.
- Shampoo the hair regularly: Greasy hair can cause excess oil to spread to the earlobe and nearby skin.
- Be gentle with the skin: Avoid harsh or rough exfoliants, astringents, and toners.
- Use oil-free products: These skin, hair, and cosmetic products may be labeled “non-comedogenic.”
- Remove makeup before bed: Even non-comedogenic makeup can contribute to pimples forming if worn for longer periods.
- Keep hairsprays and gels away from the skin: They can clog the pores around the earlobes.
- Wash hats and pillowcases regularly: This prevents bacteria and dead skin cells from collecting and coming into contact with the skin.
- Make sure sports gear is clean and comfortably fitting: Helmets and other protective equipment can trap sweat and bacteria against the skin, especially if the fit is too tight.
A pimple on the earlobe develops when the pore is clogged by sebum, dead skin cells, and sometimes bacteria.
Many treatments, remedies, and home care strategies can help reduce pimples and prevent future breakouts.
Keeping skin clean is always important, but some types of acne require professional treatment.
How to remove a pimple in your ear
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A pimple in the ear can be painful and uncomfortable. Pimples usually go away on their own, but some treatments can speed up the healing process.
Pimples can occur on the ear, behind the ear, or inside the ear canal.
In this article, we talk about what causes ear pimples, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent them from coming back.
What causes ear pimples?
Pimples, also called whiteheads, zits, or blackheads are most common on the face and back, but they can show up almost anywhere.
The outer ear and external ear canal have skin cells, hair cells, and oil-producing glands, which are all it takes for a pimple to form.
Pimples appear when a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells and sebum, which is the natural oil that protects the skin and keeps it moist.
Bacteria can also cause pimples, so anything that introduces bacteria or dirt into the ear can cause pimples.
Causes of pimples in the ear include:
- exposure to a dirty or dusty environment
- glands in the ear producing too much oil
- sharing earbuds with another person
- using dirty earbuds or headphones
- putting things in the ear, including a finger
- contact with unclean water, leading to swimmer’s ear or otitis externa
- increased stress levels
- hormonal imbalances, such as during puberty
- ear piercings that become dirty or infected
- wearing hats or helmets for long periods of time
- allergic reactions to hair or beauty products that enter the ear canal
Some conditions can cause symptoms similar to a pimple in the ear, so it is important to identify a pimple correctly in order to treat it. A dermatologist can help diagnose and treat these skin-related issues in the right way.
Should you pop them?
It is best to avoid popping pimples in the ear, particularly in the ear canal. Popping pimples can push pus and bacteria deeper into the pore and cause additional symptoms, such as inflammation and infection.
The ear is a sensitive area, and if a burst pimple becomes infected, this can cause further problems. It can also damage the skin and result in a scar.
A pimple that causes substantial distress can be removed by a doctor to prevent complications.
There are several treatments for pimples that are gentle enough to use in the sensitive ear area.
A warm compress or heat pad may reduce inflammation and irritation. This can soften a pimple to bring the pus to the surface.
If a pimple drains in this way, the individual should clean up the discharge and gently wash the area with a mild soap. Cleansers, such as witch hazel or alcohol, may prevent infections.
Over-the-counter or prescription drugs may help to treat acne, such as:
For severe acne, a doctor will usually recommend topical or systemic drugs made from vitamin A. Tretinoin cream is one of the most common. Isotretinoin may also be used but is usually reserved for the most severe cases.
Doctors may also recommend antibiotics, including doxycycline or minocycline, to get rid of the bacteria. However, this type of treatment is becoming less popular, as cases of antibiotic-resistant bacteria appear.
There is that tea tree oil may reduce the severity of acne.
Dermatologists may also recommend specific store-bought acne creams or facial cleansers based on the grade of a person’s acne.
Pimples in the ear can be prevented by practicing good ear hygiene. This includes:
- regular washing and cleaning to reduce dead skin cells and sebum
- not putting foreign objects in the ear
- avoiding swimming in dirty water
- taking breaks from wearing helmets or hard hats
When pimples do not respond to treatment, a dermatologist can help decide the best prevention methods. They can help identify which grade of acne the person has, and recommend medications or home practices to prevent flare-ups.
People need to be patient when starting a new prevention method, as this will take time to produce results.
Is it a pimple?
While most spots in the ear are pimples, other conditions can also cause bumps that appear similar. Because we are unable to see our own ears, it is possible for bumps in and around the ear to go unnoticed until they become a problem.
Other ear bumps that can resemble pimples include:
- Sebaceous cysts: These are small bumps beneath the skin that appear not to grow, or to grow very slowly.
- Keloid scars: A small wound near the ear may cause keloid tissue to appear. These are areas of raised, dark-colored scar tissue that can be much larger than the original wound.
- Seborrheic keratosis: These are common, harmless skin growths that appear as slightly raised, brownish areas of skin.
- Acanthoma fissuratum: An uncommon skin condition, this may resemble a bump with raised edges. It is usually seen in a person who wears glasses.
- Boils or blind pimples: These are similar to pimples, but they are deeper into the skin, and so may cause more pain and inflammation. They tend to show no visible head.
- Basal cell carcinoma: Although rare, it is possible for bumps on the ears to be malignant growths.
A person who is uncertain about a bump in or on their ear should see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Pimples in the ear are similar to pimples elsewhere and can be treated in the same way. They usually clear up relatively quickly, often without leaving a scar.
People with persistent acne, whether in the ear or anywhere else, should see a doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis. A doctor or specialist will help assess the severity or grade of the acne and can suggest a treatment plan suited to individual cases.
The pimple treatments listed in this article are available for purchase online.
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You can get pimples in some pretty interesting places. Case in point? Please see butt acne and vaginal acne as exhibits A and B. But those aren't even the oddest spots for blemishes. You can also get ear pimples, as in acne in your ears.
What are ear pimples?
Ear pimples typically take one of two forms, says Alan Parks, a board-certified dermatologist in Ohio and founder of DermWarehouse. "People can get blackheads on the inside of their ears, or they can get pimples or larger, more inflamed cysts," he tells Allure. The latter types — the red angry ones you fear getting anywhere on your body — typically appear on or around the earlobe, he says, though they can also pop up in the "conchal bowl," aka the hollow part of your outer ear.
So, how do ear pimples happen in the first place?
"Ear pimples are usually closed comedones [aka whiteheads] or milia, which are both types of clogged pores," Lily Talakoub, a board-certified dermatologist in Virginia, tells Allure. Turns out, your ears (and the area behind and around them) actually contain oil glands, which produce sebum — the oily stuff that causes clogged pores and sebaceous cysts.
Some people are just predisposed to getting ear pimples.
Unfortunately, you can't really do anything special to prevent ear pimples. Oil glands, no matter where there are on your body, are subject to clogging, says Parks. "Some people are just predisposed to getting these, although washing the area with acne cleansers can help," he says.
How do you get rid of them?
Ear acne can be tricky to treat, according to the experts. First step, try to clear the blemishes on your own with a topical acne cream. "Blackheads can be treated with topical prescription medications, called retinoids, such as Retin-A or Epiduo," Parks says. (You can also pick up an over-the-counter retinol like Differin Gel.)
Topical solutions might not always cut it, however, cautions Talakoub. "These are different than facial blemishes of acne — they don't usually go away with topical treatments," she says. "Ear blemishes [often] need to be extracted by a dermatologist or licensed aesthetician" à la Dr. Pimple Popper, she says. If you're prone to them, your dermatologist might also prescribe an oral acne medication.
Ear blemishes [often] need to be extracted by a dermatologist or licensed aesthetician.
One very important PSA: Do not try to squeeze the clogged pores on your own. This is the rule with any blemish — you can up your risk of the pimple getting infected — but it's especially important for ear acne since the spot is more prone to infections, Talakoub explains. (Just picture rubbing your grimy earbud up against an improperly popped pimple — recipe for disaster.)
"The best way to prevent inflammation is by not touching the blemish and keeping the area clean," Talakoub says.
If your ear acne does get inflamed (or emerges as an angry cystic blemish to begin with), go straight to your dermatologist. "If an ear pimple flares up and gets acutely inflamed, it can be injected with cortisone medication," says Parks. This will help zap the inflammation, he says.
Consider this your official reminder to wash behind (and all around) your ears.
For more ways to treat acne anywhere on your body:
Now, see 100 years of acne treatments: