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Acne vulgaris, a Social Problem

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Acne vulgaris, a Social Problem

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Acne vulgaris is a prevalent skin disease resulting in psychosocial distress and scarring that persist long after the active acne has healed up.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Preetha. J

Published At July 21, 2014
Reviewed AtMarch 1, 2024

What Is Acne Vulgaris?

Acne vulgaris is nothing but the prevalent form of the acne itself. These are also referred to as pimples or spots. Acne is the most common skin problem encountered in teenagers and adults. It has been estimated that around 85 percent of teenagers are affected by acne.

How Is Acne Vulgaris Formed?

The skin contains numerous hair follicles, which, at times, may get blocked by bacteria, dead skin cells, or sebum. Sebum is an oil-like secretion produced by the sebaceous glands of the skin. When these hair follicles are blocked, it causes the formation of pimples, cysts, blackheads, or whiteheads.

What Causes Acne Vulgaris?

The formation of acne vulgaris is influenced by the following factors:

  • Presence of bacteria.

  • Sebum secretion.

  • Hormones.

Acne vulgaris is most prevalently seen in young adults, which is linked to the fact there is increased production of androgen hormone that, in turn, increases sebum production bringing about acne outbreaks.

Another vulnerable group to acne formation is women in their peri-menopausal stage. In this case, acne formation is attributed to:

  • Intake of medications.

  • Hormonal changes that occur during menstruation or menopause.

  • Use of cosmetics products.

  • Disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

How Is Acne Vulgaris Manifested?

Although the most common area of manifestation is the face, it can also occur in other areas of the body like the neck, back, chest, or other parts of the body.

Based on their relationship to the skin, acne vulgaris can be:

Superficial Lesions:

Superficial lesions usually do not persist for more than a couple of weeks. The following are grouped under superficial lesions:

  • Pustules, which are white or yellow in color and can be squeezed.

  • Papules, which are painful, red bumps present on the skin. These are smaller in size.

  • Blackheads are small, black bumps formed due to clogging of hair follicles.

  • Whiteheads are also similar to blackheads, except that these occur due to closed pores. In the case of blackheads, the pores are open. These are white, raised bumps on the skin that arise from clogged hair follicles.

Deeper Lesions:

Deeper lesions are usually seen persisting for months and include the following:

  • Nodules, which are similar to papules but are comparatively larger in size.

  • Pseudocysts, as the name suggests, are cyst-like swellings. They are fluctuating in nature.

Depending on the clinical features, acne vulgaris can be graded into:

  • Mild Acne: In the case of mild acne, pimples are seen along with whiteheads (closed comedones) or blackheads (open comedones), but the number of comedones is less than 20. It is also called comodonal acne

  • Moderate Acne: In addition to more pustules and papules than in comedonal acne, the skin possesses a few comedones. Either none or very few nodules are visible.

  • Severe Acne: There is widespread involvement of pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads in severe acne. In addition, there is the presence of nodules or cysts. These exhibit more pain, are larger in size, and have a more solid texture as compared to the pimples. This type of acne is also called cystic, or nodulocystic acne.

How Are Secondary Lesions Formed in Acne Vulgaris?

Below are the different types of secondary lesions:

  • Scratching the spots or pimples brings about excoriations.

  • Scarring from previous acne outbreaks is also grouped under secondary lesions. Scarring can be of any type. However, moderate and severe forms of acne are more prone to cause skin scarring.

  • In the case of fair skin, pimples that have been healed recently are exhibited as red marks called erythematous macules.

  • Pigmented macules are also a form of secondary lesion that occurs in dark skin shades. These are dark in color.

How Is Acne Vulgaris Diagnosed?

The physician will inquire about medical history and family history. The physician also inquires about the skin care products and medications one is taking to identify the cause of the acne because certain skin care products may clog the pores and certain medications may disturb the hormonal levels inducing acne formation. To identify the kind and severity of acne, the physician will inspect the skin in the affected areas. While a medical history and physical examination are usually sufficient to diagnose acne, blood tests can be useful in determining the hormone levels (like testosterone) linked to acne.

How Is Acne Vulgaris Treated?

Treatment of acne requires diligence and patience both on the part of the patient and the doctor because acne is not going to get cured overnight or within a week or 10 days. Individuals have to be constantly aware of their acne to keep them under control, as those with acne tend to form new acne. In addition, acne lessens with age, and until that happens, individuals need to use topical medication to keep them under control.

Treatment options for acne are plenty, and a dermatologist would suggest the best treatment depending on the type of acne. Acne treatment mainly revolves around topical antibacterials, topical benzoyl peroxide gel, and topical retinoids. Oral treatment includes oral antibiotics (Doxycycline, Azithromycin, Minocycline, etc.) and oral retinoids (Isotretinoin). Once acne is under control, it might require nothing more than a topical anti-acne gel or cream (mostly a topical retinoid) to maintain the improvement. But one cannot be totally off it unless the acne tendency dies down on its own at a certain age.

What Are the Complications Associated With Acne Vulgaris?

The following are the complications that accompany acne vulgaris if left untreated:

  • Scarring. In severe cases, the formation of keloid scars is also possible.

  • Hyperpigmentation.

  • Psychological impact.

What Is the Impact of Acne Vulgaris on an Individual’s Mental and Social Health?

Acne is not a disease by itself, but being chronic in nature, it can have a significant impact on shaping the overall personality of a person.

People with acne are often found to have low self-esteem, which restricts them somehow or the other. Even moderate-grade acne can lead to reduced self-esteem in teens and adults because they are constantly battling issues related to how they look and are perceived by the outside world, peer pressure, and bullying by others.

People used to ignore acne in the past, but today in this highly competitive world where the first impression matters a lot, one cannot let acne play havoc with the skin, leaving behind lifelong acne scarring on the face. Imagine a girl who dreams of modeling or hospitality business or wants to become an air hostess. If that person develops severe acne and does not get proper treatment, then the acne is going to have an impact on their career for sure.

What Is the Prognosis for Acne Sufferers?

Most individuals experience acne and have a good prognosis. Acne typically spikes in adolescence and goes away on its own in the early stages of adulthood. However, certain individuals continue to suffer from acne well into adulthood. Individuals who suffer from moderate or severe acne may experience scarring. Many treatment options are there to cure the scarring caused by acne.


Acne vulgaris is a dermatological condition characterized by the formation of different types of acne, namely pimples, nodules, whiteheads, or blackheads. Any form of acne is sure to have an effect on the affected individual’s mental health. If left untreated, it can bring about scarring on the skin. Therefore, it is always advisable to reach out to a dermatologist soon after the incidence of acne to get the appropriate treatment and prevent complications.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does Acne Cause Anxiety?

Yes, acne does cause anxiety. A person who is suffering from anxiety experiences social isolation and seclusion. They may also experience severe anxiety and stress due to their physical appearance. However, these symptoms may gradually decrease after the treatment of this condition.


Is Acne a Modern Skin Disorder?

Acne is not a modern skin disorder. It has been present for ages. It is associated with hormonal changes and also excessive oil secretions by the skin glands.


Does Anxiety Impact the Mental Health of a Person?

Yes, anxiety can impact the mental state of a person. Acne can lower the self-esteem of a person. It is associated with increased anxiety and stress. More severe cases of acne have more symptoms.


What Is Emotional Acne?

Excessive emotions such as stress can cause acne in some people. This is mainly due to an increase in stress hormones. Therefore, acne can be one of the physical symptoms of stress.


Is Acne Vulgaris a Disease or Disorder?

Acne vulgaris is a disorder. It affects the hair follicles and oil glands. When these glands get clogged, it may lead to infections that are known as acne.


Is Acne Vulgaris a Disease or Disorder?

Acne vulgaris is caused by bacteria. This bacteria may cause infection of hair follicles or oil glands that may be clogged. The severity of this condition depends on the blockage of the gland.


What Are the Effects of Acne in a Teenager?

Acne is more common among teenagers because excess oil may be secreted due to hormonal imbalances. Acne in teenagers affects their self-esteem to a large extent. It may even cause psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.


How to Deal With Acne Mentally?

The psychological aspects of acne have to be dealt with mentally. It involves exercise that can help a person de-stress. The resolution of acne through medications can also give the person space to heal mentally.


After What Age Does Acne Decrease?

Acne is more common in girls between 14 and 18. In boys, it occurs between 15 and 19. It is commonly observed that acne disappears after hitting the 20s. However, for a few people, it may take longer.


Can Acne Be Cured?

More than cured acne can be managed. Medications, along with some diet restrictions, can give relief to acne. However, the effective management of acne and prevention of its recurrence is a long process that takes time and effort.
Dr. Sushil Kakkar
Dr. Sushil Kakkar



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