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Acne - Causes, Types, Home Remedies and Treatment Strategy

Written by
Dr. Archana
and medically reviewed by Dr. Preetha. J

Published on May 10, 2018 and last reviewed on Feb 21, 2023   -  6 min read


Acne is a skin condition caused by obstruction of the follicles with oil and dead skin. It presents as whiteheads, blackheads and pimples, among teenagers commonly.

Acne - Causes, Types, Home Remedies and Treatment Strategy


Clear skin is an obsession for almost everyone. Many cosmetic procedures are available to provide clear and acne-free skin. We all would have come across various advertisements for products aiming to provide acne-free, smooth skin in our day-to-day life. But what is this acne all about?

What Is an Acne?

Acne is a prevalent skin condition. The open hair follicles or the skin's pores get clogged with oil and dirt, resulting in whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. It commonly starts during puberty but can occur at any age. Although it is not a dangerous condition, acne can leave scars on the skin. Acne appears in different body parts like the face, chest, shoulders, and back. Acne affects almost all teenagers in different severity. Depending on how severe the acne is, it tends to affect a person's emotional well-being accordingly.

Here Are a Few Facts About Acne -

  • Acne is one of the most common skin diseases.

  • In people aged 11 to 30 years, the ratio of this disease is 3:4.

  • Risk factors include oil-based makeup, squeezing pimples, weather, genetics, menstrual cycle, and hormonal factors.

What Are the Various Causes of Acne?

The sebaceous glands produce an oily liquid called sebum. The sebum carries dead skin cells through the follicles to the skin's surface. When the follicles get blocked, acne will grow under the skin where oil buildup is present. The follicles can bulge, resulting in whiteheads. In the case of an open pore, the plug can darken and cause blackheads. Pimples are raised, and red bumps on the skin are filled with pus.

The other causes of acne are:

  1. Medication that includes androgen, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, and lithium.

  2. Stress.

  3. Menstruation.

What Are the Different Types of Acne?

  1. Whiteheads.

  2. Blackheads.

  3. Papules.

  4. Pustules.

  5. Nodules.

  6. Cysts.

What Are the Common Sites of Acne?

  • Forehead.

  • Between the brows.

  • Cheeks.

  • Chin.

  • Shoulders.

  • Upper back.

What Do the Sites of Acne Suggest?

  • If your face breaks out near the edges, your beauty products are blocking your pores.

  • If the cheeks break out, you are overeating sugar.

  • If there is a flare-up in the forehead area, it is due to a liver issue, stress, or sleep deprivation.

  • If there are bumps on the T-zone, your face is producing too much oil.

What Are the Contributing Factors for Acne?

Common factors contributing to acne are:

  1. Heredity - If any parents have acne issues, the child would be more prone to acne. Genetics plays a significant role.

  2. Age - Teenagers are the most affected group by acne.

  3. Stress - When in stress, hormones like cortisol and androgen can promote acne formation by producing more oil in the skin.

  4. Drugs - Certain drugs like corticosteroids, lithium, anticonvulsants, and barbiturates can cause acne.

  5. Occupations - People working in places exposed to industrial compounds like derivatives of coal tar, chlorinated hydrocarbons, etc., are prone to occupational acne.

  6. Cosmetics - Acne cosmetica is a term used to describe acne developing due to makeup products. Ones who do not have acne otherwise can also develop acne due to the usage of makeup products. Common makeup product ingredients causing acne are benzaldehyde, lauric acid, stearic acid, lanolin, algae extract, wheat germ oil, and sodium chloride.

What Are the Medical Conditions That Mimic Acne?

  • Rosacea - It is a skin condition characterized by pus-filled red bumps.

  • Folliculitis - Inflammation of the hair follicles is known as folliculitis.

  • Gram-negative folliculitis.

  • Pseudofolliculitis.

How to Treat Acne?

Essential factors to follow or modify to get rid of acne are,

  1. Lifestyle - Lifestyle modifications are mandatory to prevent acne from occurring. Avoid intake of soda, sweets, and alcohol, and cover up to prevent damage from air pollution. Stress-free life has to be practiced. Exercise regularly, and drink an adequate amount of water. Eliminate smoking habits.

  2. Open the pores.

  3. Cleansing andskin care.

  4. Reducing bacteria.

  5. Reduce the oil.

  6. Cosmetics.

  7. Facials.

  8. Pore strips.

Mild Acne -

  1. Resorcinol: It helps break down blackheads and whiteheads.

  2. Benzoyl Peroxide: It kills bacteria, accelerates skin replacement, and slows down sebum production.

  3. Salicylic Acid: It helps to reduce swelling and inflammation. It comes under the chemical peels procedure category. Chemical peels are best to treat mild acne.

  4. Sulfur: It is unknown how exactly it works.

  5. Retin-A: It helps unclog the pores through increased cell turnover.

  6. Azelaic Acid: Stops sebum eruptions, makes cells more robust, and curbs the growth of bacteria.

Moderate Acne -

  1. Corticosteroid Injection - It relieves inflammation and shrinks the large cysts in a shorter period.

  2. Oral Antibiotics - Tetracycline and Macrolides are the first line of oral antibiotics preferred to treat acne.

  3. Oral Contraceptives.

  4. Topical Antimicrobials - Topical Clindamycin and Erythromycin are found to provide excellent results by clearing up acne.

  5. Isotretinoin - Isotretinoin works effectively in treating severe and painful acne. However, it causes some side effects like thinning hair, dry skin, etc.

How to Prevent and Manage Acne at Home?

  1. Wash your face twice a day with warm water.

  2. Do not scrub the pimples with a face scrub, turmeric powder, etc. Instead, use only a mild cleanser.

  3. Do not pop the pimples.

  4. Wash your hands before touching your face and applying creams.

  5. Rinse bath towels and pillowcases frequently.

  6. Avoid anxiety and stress.

  7. Avoid oily food. Eat more greens and fruits.

  8. Avoid sun exposure. Apply sunscreen all the time.

  9. Drink an adequate amount of water. Stay hydrated always.

  10. Avoid taking alcohol, sweets, and sugars. Likewise, avoid soda and other aerated drinks.

  11. Avoid constant friction of mobile phones, helmets, and collars over the skin.

What Are the Possible Complications of Acne?

Acne affected skin is more prone to complications like,

  • Scar - Pitted scars and thick scars are common complications. Pitted scars are hard to remove, and it needs advanced procedures with a laser to heal.

  • Pigmentation - The skin affected by acne can become either hyperpigmented or hypopigmented.


Acne is a concerning factor, and it has to be treated appropriately at the earlier stages to prevent complications like pitted scars. Many medical procedures and medications are available now to treat the condition. Seeking a qualified dermatologist will help get rid of acne in the earliest and safe way.


Last reviewed at:
21 Feb 2023  -  6 min read




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