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Is Acne Contagious?

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Updated June 16, 2014

Question: Is Acne Contagious?
Is acne contagious? Is it possible to catch acne from someone else?
Answer:

Although there are some skin maladies that are contagious, acne isn't one of them. Common acne (what's called acne vulgaris in med-speak) can't be passed from person to person like a cold or flu can.

You can touch, hug, and kiss someone with acne without fear of catching the skin disorder. You can even share the same towel or soap with someone who has acne without fear.

So if acne isn't contagious, how do people get acne in the first place? Three major factors contribute to acne -- a plug of skin cells within the pore, a surplus of oil, and the acne-inducing bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).

P. acnes are bacteria that are routinely present on the skin. It isn't passed from person to person, so you don't have to worry about "catching" this bacterium and developing acne. P. acnes are generally harmless. But when a plug of dead skin cells and oil blocks the pore opening, it creates an anaerobic environment where the P. acnes thrive. The bacteria irritate the pore lining, creating redness and inflammation.

So, if you have a friend with acne, you don't have to worry about catching it from them. If you're the one with acne, although there is no cure, it can be treated. If you're acne is mild, try an over-the-counter treatment first. If your acne is more serious, or if you can't control your acne with OTC products, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Your doctor can help develop a successful acne treatment plan.

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