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What is Acne - Causes, Forms, and Prevention

Updated on November 1, 2016

Acne is a skin disease that is characterized by bumps occurring on the surface of the skin. These bumps can be white, black or red in color. They also can be in the form of hard cysts.

Acne typically occurs between the age of 11 and 30. It is most commonly seen in teenagers. This condition commonly occurs on the face, neck and back areas of the body.

Causes of Acne

Acne can be the result of any one or a combination of the following reasons

  • due to fluctuation in the hormone levels
  • excess of oil production along with the accumulation of dead skin cells and dirt that block the pores
  • certain medications and medical conditions
  • genetics

The rapid growth of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes causes inflammation of the skin that can lead to acne if left untreated.

Hair Follicle with Sebaceous Glands
Hair Follicle with Sebaceous Glands | Source

Understanding Acne

Acne is a disease of the skin that occurs when the pores (tiny openings) of the skin gets blocked. Beneath the skin, there are many sebaceous glands (oil glands). The sebaceous glands produce an oil-like substance called sebum.

What does the sebum do?

  • the sebum keeps the skin moist
  • sebum also carries dead cells to the surface of the skin, to enable new skin cells to grow

How does the sebum reach the skin?

The sebum reaches the skin by flowing out of tube-like structures called follicles. Each follicle has a single hair growing out of it.

Acne occurs when the pores of the skin get blocked with a mix of oil, dead skin cells and dirt that settle on the surface of the skin.

Different Forms of Acne

Acne shows up on the skin in the form of bumps – whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pimples, pustules, nodules and cysts.

In blackheads and whiteheads, bacteria build up in the pore, but the acne is not inflamed. The bacteria remain just beneath the surface of the skin.

Whiteheads – They appear in the form of small white spots on the skin. They are not clearly visible and blend in with the skin. Whiteheads occur when the pores get blocked and slightly bulge out of the skin. In the case of whiteheads, the pores on the skin are blocked and do not rupture open.

Blackheads – They appear as black spots on the skin and are clearly visible. The blackheads form when the blocked pores swell up, bulges out of the skin and burst open. The surface of the pore becomes black due to exposure to the air.

Papules – They appear as small red patches on the skin. These red patches occur when the hair follicles break and cracks appear on the skin.

The crack fully exposes the oil inside the pore to the outside air.The bacteria that are already living on the skin grow and multiply in the exposed oil. When this happens, the follicles get infected and results in the formation of a pustule.

Pimples – Pimples form when bacteria penetrate deep below the skin and inflammation occurs. When a pimple is inflamed, it erupts on the skin in the shape of a tender red bump. The bump does not have pus collection. This type of a bump is called a pimple

Pustules –Pustules are clearly visible on the skin. Pustules are red at the base and have pus formation on the surface. A pustule is also referred to as a “zit”.

When the bacteria leak under the skin, then the inflammation in the acne is worsened. This leakage leads to the formation of nodules and cysts.

Nodules – Nodules form when the hair follicle breaks off at the base and a total collapse of the hair follicle occurs. When this happens it leads to the formation of a large solid inflamed bump that can be very painful.

Cysts – Cysts are clearly visible on the skin surface in the form of a big solid bump. Cysts are filled with pus and can be very painful.

What you can do to prevent acne?

These are simple steps that you can follow on a daily basis to prevent acne-

Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser or a gentle soap. Do not scrub your skin when washing. This only irritates the skin further.

If you are wearing makeup, make sure to remove all the makeup before going to bed. Also, remember to remove makeup before washing your face.

Use oil-free moisturizers, makeup and sunscreen if you have oily skin.

If you use hair sprays or hair gels, keep them away from your face because they clog up the pores.

Wash your face after exercising or after sweating a lot.

Do not keep touching your face, germs from your hand can get on to your face and can lead to infection and inflammation.

Do not pick, scratch or squeeze out pimples.

Tie your hair into a ponytail to keep hair away from your face.

Pat, your skin dry, do not rub down.

Treating Acne

Many lotions and creams are available to treat acne. Choose products that have any one or a combination of the following products -

  • Benzoyl peroxide - kills the bacteria that causes acne and reduces puffiness
  • Salicylic acid - dries out the skin and makes it peel which helps to get rid of pimples
  • Resorcinol - helps break down blackheads and whiteheads
  • Retin A - helps to unplug blocked pores
  • Azelaic acids - strengthen the hair follicles, prevents oil eruptions and kills the bacteria

When you use a product for acne, follow the instructions. If you use too much, the skin will become very dry. Try out just a little bit on your skin to rule out any allergic reaction before you start using any cream.

Consult a skin doctor if the acne does not reduce or if the condition gets worse.




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    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Yaduvanshi, thank you for stopping by.

    • Yaduvanshi profile image

      Yaduvanshi 5 years ago from Bharat Vrse

      Very informative article thanks

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      mOrdOr thank you for stopping by and herbal remedies do help.

    • m0rd0r profile image

      Stoill Barzakov 5 years ago from Sofia, Bulgaria

      Good hub,

      Herbal medicine claims, you need to clean the blood from toxins and acne will go away naturally.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      TroyM thanks for stopping by and reading. I am glad that you found my hub useful and thankyou for the appreciaiton.

    • TroyM profile image

      TroyM 5 years ago

      Useful information on Acne...Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 6 years ago from Dubai

      Hi learner365 thanks for the appreciation. Am happy you found it informative and useful.

    • learner365 profile image

      Saadia A 6 years ago

      Acne surely is a much common problem and really irritating for people who suffer from it.It is a very informative and a helpful Hub about Acne and its treatment.Good Job !!!