What is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition characterized by the presence of various types of blemishes on the face, neck, back, or chest. These can include whiteheads, blackheads, or red, pus-filled pimples. Acne affects both males and females, with a somewhat higher prevalence in women.

Acne can appear during the teenage years and persist into adulthood, with the highest incidence typically occurring between ages 15 and 24. For some individuals, acne may persist beyond the teen years, requiring ongoing treatment.

Effective treatments for acne exist, but addressing it is a lengthy and continuous process. In more severe cases, acne can lead to emotional distress. Early treatment can help reduce the risk of emotional issues associated with acne.

– White heads appear as tiny, closed pores with white spots beneath the skin.

– Blackheads are small open pores that develop black plugs on the skin.

– Pimples are small red spots that can contain pus.

– Nodules are large, painful, solid lumps beneath the skin.

People can experience various types of acne. Some might have mild, consistent acne, while others might face occasional outbreaks. There are also individuals with severe acne that can affect large areas of the body. It’s possible to experience multiple types of acne simultaneously.

Acne occurs when bacteria grows inside the pores of the skin. This leads to damage of the skin leading to build up of dead skin cells and bacteria forming pimples/nodules on skin. 

Androgen hormones play a significant role in the process of oil glands producing excessive oil, which can block the pores in the face, neck, chest and shoulders. Androgen hormone levels increase both in boys & girls during puberty. However as girls reach puberty earlier, they may develop acne at a younger age. 

There are some risk factors such as hormone imbalance, certain health conditions such as Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), cigarette smoking, poor sleep and a family history of acne. Stress also contributes to hormonal fluctuations increasing the likelihood of acne.  

Though acne is not caused by the foods one consumes, some people do claim that eating certain foods makes their acne worse.

Steps to prevent acne

If someone is dealing with active acne, there are steps they can take to prevent new breakouts and the development of acne scars. Establishing a good skin care routine can help avoid inflammation and scarring caused by acne.

1. Wash the face twice daily using a soap-free, oil free cleanser, lukewarm water and a soft face cloth.

2. Apply sunscreen and wear protective hats and clothing to shield sensitive skin from UV rays.

3. Always remove makeup before going to bed to prevent clogged pores.

4. If individuals have long hair and it’s oily, shampoo it regularly so the excess oil does not sit on the face. 

5. Maintain a balanced diet and engage in regular exercise to promote overall skin health

Treating acne

Managing acne can be a gradual process and it’s important to be patient as immediate results are unlikely. It is advisable to give a specific treatment method 1-2 months before considering a different approach.

Non prescription options for treating acne include products like acne wash, cleanser, lotion of cream with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, adapalene, or azelaic acid. Other procedures like chemical peels, facials and microdermabrasion, can be beneficial and require regular sessions to notice improvements. 

Prescription treatments may involve topical antibiotics to reduce infection of inflamed pimples or retinoids to help with black heads/white heads. Secondary would be oral antibiotics, birth control pills and isotretinoin.

A combination of oral and topical products can be very effective. Individuals should begin treatment with lower-strength acne products to avoid dry skin or skin irritation. Over cleansing/washing using high strength products can worsen acne and increase the likelihood of side effects. 

Talk to a doctor

If an individual is concerned about their acne or their advised treatment is not showing any improvement, or it has progressed to severe causing emotional distress, it is best to consult the healthcare provider. Delaying any treatment can result in skin scarring so its important to not delay seeking assistance. 

Consult a doctor


Acne: Diagnosis and treatment (aad.org)