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Acne - Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

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Acne - Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

5 min read


The common skin issue known as acne is caused by clogged hair follicles, and maintaining good skin requires a skincare routine.

Written by

Dr. Vinay Kumar

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At September 4, 2015
Reviewed AtMarch 7, 2024


The skin disease known as acne is typically caused by clogged hair follicles. Each pore opens up to a single follicle. A follicle is what makes an oil gland and hair. The gland secretes an oil that softens and aids in the removal of dead skin cells. To keep the pores clear and steer clear of acne, there are a few methods to maintain clean skin. It includes regular practices like washing the face twice a day or more, using a mild cleanser, avoiding foods that cause acne, and so on. A dermatologist should be consulted if the person's regular routines are failing. Acne can be effectively treated with certain medications, but sometimes the condition persists.

What Is Acne?

Acne is known as a skin condition that is usually seen when the hair follicles present in the skin get clogged. Sebum and oil can cause clogged pores, which can exacerbate lesions commonly known as pimples or zits by retaining moisture and dead skin cells. Though they can also appear on the shoulders, back, or chest, the flare-ups mostly affect the face.

Acne is an inflammatory state of the skin that has sebaceous glands linking to the hair follicle, which contains fine hair. The sebaceous gland makes sebum drain into the skin surface through the pore. Keratinocytes line the follicles. Keratinocytes are a type of skin cell. When the body sheds skin, the keratinocytes rise to the surface of the skin. When anyone has acne, the hair, sebum, and keratinocytes create adhesion to each other inside the pore. This prevents the keratinocytes from the process of shedding and helps maintain the sebum from reaching the surface of the skin. The mix of oil and cells allows bacteria to grow in the clogged follicles and induce inflammation, swelling, redness, heat, and pain. As soon as the wall of the plugged follicle breaks down, it spills bacteria, skin cells, and sebum into the skin, which produces lesions or pimples.

Who Can Get Acne and What Are the Types of Acne?

Acne affects many people of all racial and age groups, but it is most frequent in teenagers and young adults. Males are more likely to get acne during their adolescent years. Acne can persist throughout adulthood and is more common in women.

Numerous forms of lesions, or pimples, are produced by acne. Comedones are swollen or obstructed hair follicles. Whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules or pimples, nodules, and severe nodular acne are some of the different types of acne.

What Are the Causes of Acne?

Physicians and researchers consider that one or more of the following can lead to the formation of acne which includes -

  • Excess production of oil in the pores.

  • Dead skin build-up in the pore.

  • Bacterial growth in the pore.

The following factors may raise the risk of developing acne:

  • Hormones.

  • Family history.

  • Medications.

  • Age.

The following factors do not induce acne but may worsen it:

  • Diet.

  • Stress.

  • Pressure from tight clothing, backpacks, and helmets.

  • Pollution and high humidity.

  • Picking blemishes or squeezing them.

  • Scrubbing the skin harshly.

What Are the Signs of Acne?

  • Pimples (pustules): These are pus-containing lumps or papules at the tip.

  • Papules: Tiny, discolored pimples that are typically darker than the typical skin tone, ranging from red to purple.

  • Blackheads: A black plug that clogs pores.

  • Whiteheads: Whiteheads that clog pores.

  • Nodules: Painful, large bumps beneath the skin.

  • Cysts: Pus-filled lumps under the skin that hurt.

Moderate acne might result in inflammatory papules or mild acne that cause a few sporadic pimples. Nodules and cysts are a result of severe acne.

How Is the Diagnosis of Acne Made?

Acne can be diagnosed by a medical professional through a skin examination. The doctor will examine the skin closely during this examination to get more information about the symptoms. They might also inquire about acne risk factors, such as stress, family history of acne, and medications.

What Is the Maximum Severity of Acne?

The severity of acne is ranked by dermatologists:

  • Mild - Primarily blackheads and whiteheads alongside a couple of papules and pustules in stage 1.

  • Moderate or Pustular Acne - Numerous papules and pustules, usually on the face, characterize stage 2 acne.

  • Moderately Severe or Nodulocystic Acne - Abundant papules and pustules, as well as sporadically inflammatory nodules, characterize Stage 3

  • Severe Nodulocystic Acne - Numerous big, unpleasant, and inflammatory pustules and nodules characterize Stage 4.

How Is Acne Treated?

Topical Medications:

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: This can be purchased as an over-the-counter gel or wash.

  • Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid comes in cleanser and lotion forms, and it may help avoid clogged hair follicles. Few studies have demonstrated its efficacy. Skin darkening and mild skin irritation are examples of side effects.

  • Azelaic Acid: It is a naturally occurring acid present in a variety of cereals. It lowers edema and eliminates bacteria on the skin.

  • Retinoids: For mild to moderate acne, medications containing Tretinoin or Retinoic acid are frequently helpful. They are available as lotions, gels, and creams.

  • Antibiotics: Surface bacteria that worsen and induce acne are controlled by topical antibiotics such as Erythromycin and Clindamycin. Benzoyl peroxide makes antibiotics more effective when coupled with them.

  • Dapsone: It possesses antibacterial qualities and helps to manage inflammatory acne.

Oral Medications:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics address bacterial acne. Minocycline, doxycycline, and tetracycline are frequently prescribed antibiotics used to treat acne. For mild to severe acne, these work well.

  • Contraceptives: Women with acne may find that using specific contraceptives helps. Several contraceptives have been approved to treat acne.

  • Hormone Therapy: This is useful for women who experience a spike in acne during menstrual cycle or irregular periods due to increased androgen. In women and teenage girls, Spironolactone may be prescribed. It functions by preventing androgen hormones from having an impact on the glands that produce oil. Painful periods and breast discomfort are potential side effects. When all other therapies have failed, it might be employed.

Other treatment options include light therapy, chemical peel, and steroids. These can be effective on their own or should be combined with medications.

What Is Acne’s Prognosis?

While some people will still have acne as adults, acne usually clears up in the early years of adulthood. Individuals can get help managing this issue from a healthcare provider. Effective ways of treatment include a variety of drugs and therapies. They concentrate on the underlying causes of acne

When to Visit a Doctor?

Consult a physician as soon as one notices the pimples to determine the right treatment and to prevent complications like scarring. Some may notice irritation and itchiness after using some type of topical acne medication, in such cases consult the physician to receive a alternate drug to manage the condition.

How Can Acne Be Prevented?

The following tips can be adapted to prevent acne such as:

  • The face should be kept clean. Even if there is no acne still it is important to wash the face twice a day, daily to remove impurities, dead skin cells, and excess oil from the skin's surface. Washing the face more often than twice daily is not essential and it may do more damage to the skin. Use lukewarm, not hot, water and a gentle facial cleanser. Using harsh soap can hurt already inflamed skin and induce more irritation. Avoid scrubbing the skin harshly with a washcloth, or any material. It should be gently washed with a very soft cloth or hands should be used. It should be always rinsed well, and then dry the face with a clean towel. Also, use the washcloth not more than one.

  • Suitable moisturizers should be used according to the skin type.

  • One can use over-the-counter treatments to treat acne. Over-the-counter products are those that do not require a prescription. Numerous components, including lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide, inhibit bacteria and dry out the skin. Try a modest amount initially as they could cause dryness or peeling. Then, the amount and frequency of use can be changed. A different choice is topical retinoid gel. It effectively prevents the formation of pimples. When using these products on skin that is sensitive, exercise caution.

  • Make-up should be used occasionally.

  • Visit a dermatologist if needed.


If self-care remedies do not clear acne, see the primary care physician. He or she may prescribe stronger medications. If acne continues or is severe, the patient may want to seek medical treatment from a physician who specializes in skin care like a dermatologist. For numerous women, acne can last for decades, with zits and pimples common a week before menstruation. This type of acne manages to clear up without medicine in women who use contraceptives. In older adults, a sudden outset of harsh acne may signal an underlying disease demanding medical attention. If pimples run in the family, start taking good care of the skin at an early age. Stick to the prescribed treatment and do not use products that are not suggested by the dermatologist. Certain foods that can trigger acne formation may be avoided.

Frequently Asked Questions


What to Avoid for Preventing Pimples?

To prevent pimples, a few food items like cake, white rice, soda, and white bread should be avoided. Carbohydrates and sugar-containing food directly get into the blood easily. It leads to an increase in the glycemic index that affects blood sugar and leads to the formation of pimples.


How to Care for the Pimples?

People prone to pimples should wash their face twice daily with warm water and mild soap solution. Avoiding oily and spicy foods can help prevent the further growth of pimples. Use sunscreen while traveling in the sun.


At What Age does Occurrence of Pimple Growth Stops?

Acne commonly begins during puberty between the ages of 10 and 13 years. It is most commonly seen in people with oily skin. The occurrence of acne usually goes away in the late 20s. However, it is observed in both males and females, but the male population is more commonly affected.


Why Does a Person Keep Getting Pimples?

The person may get pimples due to hormonal changes. They can also be associated with eating junk food. Getting pimples is common during the teenage years. The exact cause of pimples is when the hair follicle openings get blocked or clogged with dead skin cells and oil.


Can Drinking Water Reduces the Pimples?

Drinking water helps in keeping the person hydrated. In addition, it improves the skin by removing bacteria and toxins from the skin. Drinking at least three to four liters of water helps to flush all the toxins from the skin and also reduces the risk of pore-clogging.


Can Exercise Help in Removing Pimples?

Exercise and physical activity can help decrease the blood sugar levels that are responsible for pimple growth. So physical activity like swimming, skating, cycling, or running can help in reducing pimples. However, excessive exercise can lead to a lot of sweat which can increase the risk of acne.


Can Sleep Affect the Pimple?

The risk of developing acne increases when sleep of the person is disturbed. When a person gets lesser than the required amount of sleep, they may become prone to acne breakouts. Although no research states sleep affects pimples, they are mostly correlated.


Can We Use Hot Water for Face?

Hot water should not be used for washing the face. Hot water can remove the natural oil from the face, which leads to the dilation of blood vessels making the skin look redder. Lukewarm water is considered best for washing the face.


Does Oversleeping Cause Acne?

As we sleep, the face is kept over the pillow, which makes the skin unable to breathe. The unavailability of oxygen to the face obstructs the skin follicle, which causes clogged pores. Changing the sleeping position and adequate sleep can prevent the formation of acne.


How to Make the Skin Glow?

The skin can be made glowing by drinking a lot of water and maintaining a balanced diet. In addition, home remedies such as turmeric powder and gram flour can be applied along with milk for the face to glow. Avoiding pollution and stress can also help in making the skin healthier and glowing.


What Does Acne Vulgaris Look Like?

Acne vulgaris looks like a tender bump, small red pimples which are papules containing pus at their tips. Blackheads and pimples are two common symptoms of acne vulgaris. It most commonly occurs when oil glands are blocked in the hair follicle or due to hormonal changes.


What Is Described as Glowing Skin?

Glowing skin looks awaken and healthy rather than dry or dull. Hormone fluctuation can lead to oily skin, which makes a face glow. But production of excessive oil can lead to acne formation throughout the skin.


Can We Cure Acne Vulgaris?

Mild acne vulgaris can be managed and cured at an early stage. Unfortunately, there is no such cure for acne-prone skin. The minimum duration for treating acne is usually six to eight weeks, exceeding twelve weeks.


How Long Does Acne Vulgaris Last?

Acne lesions usually disappear within two weeks, but the deeper nodules and papules may persist for months. The minimum time taken for treatment of acne is usually six to eight weeks which can exceed twelve weeks.


When is Acne Vulgaris Common?

Acne vulgaris is commonly seen during the adolescent stage of an individual. The age group involved is usually 15 and 18 years. Excess oil entrapped in hair follicles often leads to the formation of acne vulgaris.
Dr. Vinay Kumar
Dr. Vinay Kumar



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