The Science Behind Acne: What Causes It and How To Treat It Effectively

The Science Behind Acne: What Causes It and How To Treat It Effectively

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions that affect people of all ages. This skin condition is categorized by the presence of numerous pimples, whiteheads or blackheads, on the skin. This condition can range from mild to moderate to severe.

Acne can be painful and can occur on the face, neck, chest, back, or shoulders. Although acne is not considered a serious medical condition, it can cause the carrier a lot of physical and emotional distress, especially because it is a knock on one’s self-esteem. So, what is acne, and how can we treat it?

What is Acne?

Acne is a very common skin condition that occurs when the pores on the skin become blocked by sebum, bacteria, dead skin cells, and hair. These blockages then produce whiteheads, blackheads, and other types of pimples that can be inflamed.

It is estimated that 80% of people aged 11 to 30 experience a mild form of acne, with most people experiencing acne at some point in their lives. The most common demographic targeted by acne are teenagers and young adults experiencing hormonal changes, with most people continuing to struggle with this condition into their 20s, 30s, and even beyond.

The most common spots where acne occurs are the face, forehead, shoulders, chest, and back because these are the locations on the body with the most oil glands. Acne is mainly a hormonal condition driven by androgen hormones that tend to become active during teenage and young adulthood.

A person being sensitive to these hormones combined with surface bacteria on the skin and fatty acids in the oil glands causes acne. Other things that worsen acne include picking at the acne spots, certain clothing or headgear such as hats or sports helmets, air pollution, certain oily or greasy personal care products. These could be creams, waxes, heavy lotions, genetics, certain medications, and stress. 

Four Main Types of Acne

There are several forms of acne, including:

  • Blackheads: These are open bumps on the skin that have been filled with dead skin and excess oil. They appear as dark spots on the skin.
  • Whiteheads: These are bumps that are closed with oil and dead skin.
  • Papules: These are small pink or red bumps that are inflamed.
  • Pustules: These are pimples containing pus that look like whiteheads that are surrounded by red rings. Pustules can cause scarring if you pick or scratch them.
  • Fungal acne (Pityrosporum folliculitis): This acne occurs when an excess of yeast develops in the hair follicles, resulting in an itchy and inflamed pimple.
  • Nodules: These are solid pimples that are deeply embedded in your skin. Nodules are large and painful.
  • Cysts: These are pus-filled pimples that can cause scars.

How To Treat Acne Effectively

Treating acne depends on how severe it is. Acne can be mild, with a few occasional pimples. It can also be moderate when the papules are inflamed or severe with nodules and cysts. You can treat acne effectively with over-the-counter medication or try your hand at experimenting with home remedies.

A skincare routine is also important. This includes cleansing, toning, moisturising, using good quality acne-healing products, and applying sunscreen daily. Before you try different skincare products on your acne, it is recommended that you visit a dermatologist who will assess your skin and tell you which products to use for your type of acne.

If you have more severe forms of acne, such as acne cysts, you can opt for acne medication, such as Accutane. This can only be prescribed by a dermatologist. Other medications that combat acne include oral antibiotics, retinoids, oral contraceptives, and isotretinoin.

Acne can have very harsh effects on one’s self-esteem; however, it’s important to remember that acne is very common, so if you suffer from this skin condition, you are not alone. To ensure your skin remains as healthy and radiant as possible, take care of your skin by having a daily skincare routine, eating healthy foods, exercising, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep every night.


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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