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Acne: Causes, Prevention, Treatment, and More

Acne: Causes, Prevention, Treatment, and More

by Ghania Ahmad · December 28, 2020

Are you one of those who think that acne breakout is just a normal part of life and that it has to run its course?

Well, the fact is acne can almost always be treated.

Did you know that acne doesn’t only affect teenagers and neither does it mean that you don’t wash your face enough?

Knowing better about its causes and prevention can help you get rid of it.

This is a definite guide in which we will look closely into all the possible details about acne. So, let’s dive right into it!


What is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition whose onset is marked by the accumulation of oil and dead skin cells in clogged pores of your hair follicles.

In order to keep your skin from getting too dry, the skin naturally produces a substance called sebum.

When sebum is produced in large amounts in oil glans or there is a change in its chemical makeup, it leads to acne.

Acne meaning

What usually affects the production of sebum is changing in the levels of hormones, your genes as well as certain medications.

Moreover, acne can further cause pimples, blackheads or whiteheads.

Based on its level of severity, acne can even scar the skin and cause emotional distress. These factors can even make acne worse.

The earlier you go for the treatment, the lower the chances of such risks.

Quick Facts

  • It usually affects your face, neck, back, shoulders, chest as well as upper arms.
  • It is a more common skin condition during the time of puberty but it can appear or occur at any age.
  • In people between the age range of 11 to 30 years, it usually affects 3 in every 4 people.
  • The level of its severity determines what treatment you need to go for.
  • The menstrual cycle, genetics, stress, anxiety, depression, humid and hot weather, excessive use of oil-based makeup as well as squeezing pimples increases the chances of getting acne.
  • Adrenal glands produce male hormones and these hormones stimulate the production of sebum in both men and women.

Acne Scars

In cases, where the breakout penetrates deeply into the skin and eventually damages the underlying tissues, it leads to acne scars.

Acne treatment differs depending on the type of scar. The types of acne scars include:

  • Atrophic or depressed scars (mostly appear on face and sit deeply below the surrounding skin. These further include boxcar, Ice pick and rolling)
  • Hypertrophic or raised scars (mostly appear on back and chest and stand above the surrounding skin surface)

Fungal Acne

The primary cause of this form of acne is not oil in the pores of the skin.

However, oil and sebum production in the oil glands play a vital role in feeding the bacteria that cause fungal acne.

Furthermore, fungal acne is mostly the result of an overgrowth of yeast, which is basically a type of fungus. This is the reason why we call it as fungal acne.

It can lead to irritation in the skin as well as pimple-like bumps.

The yeast that can lead to fungal acne is always present on your skin.

Moreover, your body typically manages to balance the yeast, bacteria, and other fungi.

However, if the balance gets disturbed, it can lead to fungal acne.

Some of the conditions that can disturb the balance include:

  • Trapped moisture in the skin
  • Certain medication (such as, antibiotics)
  • Compromised immune system
  • High intake of diet rich in carbs
  • Wearing skintight clothes
  • Excessive exposure of skin to warm and moist environment

Do not confuse fungal acne with ringworm as they are caused by bacteria and spreads through contact with infected animals and people.

Cystic Acne

This is the most serious form of acne as well as the largest in size. Moreover, it penetrates deeply into the skin.

Apparently, it often looks like boils on the surface of the skin.

Other characteristics on the basis of which it can be identified include:

  • Large cyst filled with pus
  • Large white bumps
  • Redness of skin
  • Induces pain on touch

This form is one of the most noticeable forms on a person’s face.

However, they can also develop on the back, neck, chest, arms, shoulders as well as behind the ears.


What Causes Acne?

Like we discussed earlier, the main cause of acne is blockage of skin pores with oil, bacteria, or dead skin.

Let’s dig in more what really causes acne!

acne causes

Each pore of your skin is an opening to a follicle. A hair as well as a sebaceous gland forms the follicle.

As evident by the name, the sebaceous gland is meant to release sebum (oil).

It then travels out of the pore, up the hair, and onto the skin.

The main purpose of sebum is to lubricate your skin and keep it moist and soft.

If there is any problem in this process of lubrication, it can lead to acne. Some of the most common problems include:

  • Your follicles produce more oil than usual
  • Accumulation of dead skin cells in the pores
  • The amount of bacteria increases in your pores

Eventually, these problems can lead to pimples and acne.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for acne include:

  • Teenage
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy or puberty
  • Having a family history
  • Excessive use of oil-based makeup
  • Friction or increased pressure on your skin (like with tight collars, or backpacks etc.)


In case, you have acne, you will notice pimples on your skin that are either white or black in color.

Both whiteheads and blackheads are called as comedones.

Moreover, whiteheads close just beneath the skin surface and give it a white appearance.

However, blackheads open just at the skin surface and oxygen in the air gives it a black appearance.

Furthermore, other inflammatory lesions include:

  • Papules (Inflammation or infection in hair follicles causes papules that appear as small, red and raised bumps)
  • Pustules (Small in size and red colored pimples having pus at the tips)
  • Nodules (Solid and painful lumps under the skin surface)
  • Cysts (contain pus, are painful and usually appear as large lumps)


Acne Treatment

If self-care doesn’t help treating acne, some medications, as well as procedures, are available for the purpose of treatment.

You can consult your dermatologist or doctor in order to get a proper treatment plan as per your needs.

acne treatment


Most of the medications that are available for treating acne contain ingredients that can reduce oil or help to kill the bacteria in your skin.

These medications mostly include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide (available in the form of creams and gels)
  • Sulfur (available in the form of cleansers, masks or lotions)
  • Resorcinol (for the purpose of removing dead skin cells)
  • Salicylic acid (available in the form of face washes and soaps)

In case, the symptoms prevail, you would need to consult your doctor further to seek medical advice.

Your doctor can advise you of certain medicines that can help to prevent scars as well as reducing the symptoms.

These include:

  • Oral and topical antibiotics
  • Topical creams (like prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide or retinoic acid)

Other Procedures

In case of severe acne and scarring, your doctor may recommend other procedures.

These include:

  • Photodynamic therapy (uses medication and special laser or light to reduce acne and scars)
  • Dermabrasion (uses a rotating brush to remove dead cells of skin)
  • Chemical peel (mostly used to improve mild acne scars)
  • Cortisone injections (reduces inflammation as well as speeds up the process of healing)
  • Hydrafacial (non-invasive procedure to combat skin problems)


How to Prevent Acne?

It’s not really easy to prevent acne particularly if you have a family history.

However, there are several steps you can take to make sure that you have lesser chances of developing acne.

acne prevention

These steps include:

  • wash your face with an oil-free cleanser two times a day
  • use acne cream in order to remove excess oil
  • avoid makeup that has high content of oil
  • remove makeup as soon as you are home
  • cleanse your skin thoroughly before going to bed
  • take shower regularly, especially after exercise
  • reduce stress by using coping strategies
  • eat healthy
  • cut off excess carbs and refined sugars
  • avoid wearing skintight clothes
  • frequently washing affected areas can irritate the skin and worsen the symptoms
  • use lukewarm water, neither too hot nor too cold
  • do not touch or squeeze the affected area
  • if you have oily skin, use water-based makeup products
  • if your skin is dry, use fragrance-free water-based emollient
  • wash your hair regularly
  • avoid letting hair fall across your face


Home Remedies for Acne

The most effective treatment for acne is the standard clinical treatment which includes a proper consultation with a doctor.

However, there are some home treatments that have proven to show beneficial results. Though, more research on their effectiveness is still required.

Let’s have a look at some of the home remedies!

home remedies

The most commonly used home remedies include:

  1. Take zinc supplement
  2. Apply honey and cinnamon mask
  3. Treat with tea tree oil after diluting it
  4. Apply 1 part apple cider vinegar with 3 parts of water (use more water for sensitive skin)
  5. Apply green tea on your face or other affected area
  6. Use witch hazel
  7. Moisturize your skin with aloe vera
  8. Intake of fish oil supplement
  9. Exfoliate your skin once a day
  10. Follow a diet having a low glycemic index
  11. Cut back on milk and dairy products
  12. Reduce your stress load by using coping strategies
  13. Engage in exercise on a regular basis


Therefore, an acne breakout can be worrisome but at the same time, there are several treatments in order to get rid of it.

Moreover, it’s better to take care of your skin and focus more on preventive measures.

Still, in case you develop acne, seeking proper medical help is the best way out.

Ghania Ahmad

I am a Psychology graduate and I run a small home-based setup for children on spectrum. I love making content. In the past, I've worked as a Marketing Communications Manager at Acme Business services. Prior to this, I have also served IGI Life Vitality as a Senior Executive Consultant.

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