Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Acne: Causes, impact, and effective management strategies

Androgens, which are hormones present in both males and females, can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles are clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Several factors contribute to the development of acne, and it often results from a combination of these factors.

It is characterized by the formation of various types of skin lesions, including comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. Acne commonly occurs on the face, but it can also affect the neck, chest, back, shoulders, and other areas of the body.

Acne can have varying degrees of severity, ranging from mild with a few blemishes to severe with extensive lesions and scarring. The impact of acne extends beyond the physical symptoms, as it can significantly affect a person’s self-esteem and quality of life.


Here are some of the primary causes of acne:

  1. Excess Sebum Production: Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. When these glands produce too much sebum, it can mix with dead skin cells and plug hair follicles, leading to the formation of comedones (clogged pores).
  2. Hair Follicle Clogging: Dead skin cells are shed continuously, and under normal circumstances, they are expelled from the hair follicle. However, when these cells don’t shed properly or mix with excess sebum, they can clog the follicles.
  3. Bacterial Growth: The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is naturally present on the skin, but it can multiply rapidly in clogged hair follicles. This can lead to inflammation and the formation of inflammatory acne lesions.
  4. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and the use of hormonal contraceptives, can influence sebum production. Androgens, the male sex hormones present in both males and females, play a role in stimulating sebum production.
  5. Genetics: If your parents or siblings had acne, you may be more prone to developing it. There is a genetic component to acne, and certain genes may influence your susceptibility to acne breakouts.
  6. Dietary Factors: Although the relationship between diet and acne is not fully understood, some studies suggest that certain foods, such as those with a high glycemic index or dairy products, may contribute to acne in some individuals.
  7. Stress: While stress alone doesn’t cause acne, it can exacerbate existing skin conditions. Stress may influence hormone levels and contribute to increased sebum production.
  8. Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental elements, such as pollution and high humidity, can contribute to acne. Additionally, using harsh or pore-clogging skincare products can worsen acne.


Acne manifests in various forms, and the lesions can range from non-inflammatory to inflammatory. Here are the primary types of acne:

  1. Comedones:
    • Whiteheads (Closed Comedones): Small, flesh-colored or white bumps caused by the closure of hair follicles.
    • Blackheads (Open Comedones): Open, darkened pores resulting from the oxidation of sebum and dead skin cells.
  2. Inflammatory Acne:
    • Papules: Small, red, raised bumps caused by inflamed hair follicles.
    • Pustules: Inflamed lesions filled with pus, characterized by a white or yellow center.
    • Nodules: Large, painful, solid lumps beneath the surface of the skin.
    • Cysts: Deep, pus-filled lesions that can be painful and lead to scarring.
  3. Other Types:
    • Acne Rosacea: Redness and small, red, pus-filled bumps, often affecting the face.
    • Acne Fulminans: A severe and rare form of inflammatory acne accompanied by systemic symptoms like fever and joint pain.
    • Gram-Negative Folliculitis: Pustules and cysts caused by bacteria resistant to typical acne antibiotics.
    • Pyoderma Faciale (Rosacea Fulminans): Sudden and severe onset of inflammatory acne in adult women.
  4. Hormonal Acne:
    • Often manifests as deep, painful cysts around the chin and jawline, commonly associated with hormonal fluctuations during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  5. Excoriated Acne:
    • Resulting from the compulsive picking or scratching of acne lesions, leading to open sores and potential scarring.


The impact of acne extends beyond its physical manifestations, affecting various aspects of an individual’s life.

Here are some of the significant impacts of acne:

  1. Psychological and Emotional Effects:
    • Self-esteem: Acne can have a profound impact on self-esteem and body image, leading to feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity.
    • Depression and Anxiety: Individuals with severe acne may experience symptoms of depression and anxiety due to the social and emotional challenges associated with the condition.
  2. Social Impact:
    • Social Withdrawal: People with acne may withdraw from social activities or avoid social situations to evade perceived judgment or negative attention.
    • Bullying and Stigma: Acne can unfortunately be a target for bullying or social stigma, contributing to emotional distress.
  3. Academic and Occupational Effects:
    • Impact on Performance: The psychological toll of acne may affect academic or work performance, as individuals may find it challenging to concentrate or engage fully in their responsibilities.
  4. Physical Discomfort:
    • Pain and Discomfort: Inflammatory acne lesions, such as nodules and cysts, can be physically painful and cause discomfort.
  5. Scarring:
    • Permanent Scarring: Severe forms of acne, if left untreated, can lead to permanent scarring, further influencing self-image and confidence.
  6. Time and Financial Costs:
    • Treatment Expenses: Seeking effective acne treatment may involve financial costs, including dermatologist visits, medications, and skincare products.
    • Time Commitment: Managing acne often requires time-consuming skincare routines and regular medical appointments.
  7. Health-Related Concerns:
    • Infections and Complications: In some cases, acne lesions can become infected, leading to additional health concerns.

Managing acne

Managing acne involves a multifaceted approach that addresses the underlying causes, reduces symptoms, and minimizes the risk of scarring.

Here are some general strategies for managing acne:

  1. Skincare Routine:
    • Gentle Cleansing: Use a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser to wash your face twice daily to remove excess oil and prevent pore clogging.
    • Avoid Scrubbing: Scrubbing can irritate the skin and worsen acne. Use a gentle touch when washing your face.
  2. Topical Treatments:
    • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Products: Look for products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or alpha hydroxy acids. These can help unclog pores and reduce inflammation.
    • Prescription Topicals: Dermatologists may prescribe stronger topical treatments, such as retinoids, to promote cell turnover and prevent clogged pores.
  3. Oral Medications:
    • Antibiotics: For inflammatory acne, oral antibiotics like tetracycline or doxycycline may be prescribed to reduce bacteria and inflammation.
    • Oral Contraceptives: Hormonal birth control pills can be effective for managing hormonal acne in women.
    • Isotretinoin (Accutane): A powerful medication for severe acne that can reduce oil production and prevent scarring. It is usually prescribed for severe cases due to potential side effects.
  4. Lifestyle Modifications:
    • Healthy Diet: While the relationship between diet and acne is complex, some individuals find that avoiding certain foods, such as dairy and high-glycemic foods, can help manage acne.
    • Hydration: Drink plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated and help flush out toxins.
    • Stress Management: Practice stress-reducing techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing, as stress can exacerbate acne.
  5. Professional Treatments:
    • Chemical Peels: Dermatologists may use chemical peels to exfoliate the skin and reduce acne lesions.
    • Laser and Light Therapies: These treatments can target bacteria, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
  6. Avoiding Irritants:
    • Non-comedogenic Products: Choose skincare and cosmetic products labeled as non-comedogenic to avoid clogging pores.
    • Avoid Picking or Squeezing: Picking at acne lesions can worsen inflammation and increase the risk of scarring.
  7. Regular Dermatologist Visits:
    • Professional Guidance: Dermatologists can tailor a treatment plan based on the type and severity of acne, as well as individual skin characteristics.
    • Monitoring Progress: Regular follow-up appointments allow for adjustments to the treatment plan based on how the skin responds.


In conclusion, acne is a multifaceted skin condition characterized by the formation of various lesions resulting from the clogging of hair follicles and the interplay of factors such as excess sebum production, bacterial activity, hormonal influences, genetic predisposition, and environmental factors. While it commonly manifests on the face, acne can affect other areas of the body and varies in severity from mild to severe.

Understanding the causes and contributing factors to acne is crucial for effective management and treatment. Dermatological interventions, including topical and oral medications, lifestyle adjustments, and advanced procedures, offer a range of options for individuals seeking to address and control their acne.

It’s important to recognize that the impact of acne extends beyond its physical symptoms, often affecting individuals emotionally and socially. Seeking professional advice from dermatologists can provide personalized strategies for managing acne and minimizing its impact on one’s well-being. With appropriate care and treatment, many individuals can achieve clearer skin and improved confidence, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive and individualized approach to acne management.

By Parvathy Sukumaran

Parvathy Sukumaran is a Content Creator and Editor at JustCare Health. She is an Educator and a Language Lecturer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Education and an M.A in English Literature. She is passionate about writing, archaeology, music and cooking.

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