What is Acne?

Acne or acne vulgaris is an umbrella term for all infections of the hair follicles and sebaceous glands or the pilosebaceous unit of the skin. Who hasn’t faced acne as a teenager or even as an adult? Most of us have experienced acne and some of us bear the signs of their trauma through our scars. Acne affects 60 million people in the US alone.

It is categorized into two: non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne.

Non-inflammatory acne features whiteheads and blackheads. These don’t include cysts or nodules.

Inflammatory acne is usually caused by P. Acnes and other bacteria.

Cystic acne is an intense form of acne characterized by large, inflamed cysts and nodules that are extremely inflamed and angry looking bumps.

A severe form of inflammatory acne, Acne Fulminans affects adolescent men on the chest and the back.

Dermatologists use a different classification for acne called the Pillsbury scale. They categorize it into grade I, II, III or IV acne.

Grade I— has mild whiteheads, blackheads, and small pimples.

Grade II— frequent breakouts of pustules and papules.

Grade III— inflamed papules and pustules, and some nodules.

Grade IV— nodules, cysts, pustules, and papules on the face, back, chest, neck, and buttocks.

Signs & Symptoms of Acne:

-Blackheads are also black comedones around the nose, forehead or chin that result from dirt trapped inside a hair follicle.

-Whiteheads are comedones plugged with pus that develop a white “head.”

-Papules and pustules are round, red and don’t always have a visible “head.”

-Cysts or nodules are severe forms of acne of that are painful.

-Scars when acne is untreated.

Causes of Acne

There are many causes of acne. These include:

-Blocked pores: Pores get blocked with makeup, dead cells, sebum, and debris.


-Hormonal imbalance: Increase in androgen hormones also increase sebaceous production. This occurs in teenagers and is responsible for acne among people experiencing PMS, delayed periods, premature menopause, and other hormonal syndromes such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

-Diets that include refined carbohydrates, sugar and unhealthy fats with little to no vitamins and minerals.

-Extreme stress and psychiatric conditions like depression and anxiety.

-Medications like steroids, androgens, birth control pills and lithium. These drugs have been proven to trigger acne or exacerbate pre-existing lesions.

-Sleep deprivation and insomnia: Lack of sleep increases cortisol production, which in turn increases the sebum production in the follicles and cells.

-Genetic predisposition.


Acne treatment doesn’t just involve treating pimples, cysts, and nodules. It requires a lifestyle change, a good skin care regimen and proven treatment solutions like proactiv.

There are plenty of over the counter drugs and topical applications to reduce inflammation and infection. First, you may need to evaluate the cause of your acne. Go through the above list and identify any causes in your daily routine. Then work your way through to fix these issues. This is important if you find yourself having cystic or nodular acne, or extensive acne across your back and chest.

Identification of the root cause is important in the treatment of acne. Then a visit to a dermatologist may prompt the consideration of medications, antibiotics, peels or hormonal treatments.

Change your diet. Studies have shown that people consuming a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish had fewer breakouts. Eat foods rich omega-3s which control the production of leukotriene B4, a molecule that increases sebum and causes inflammatory acne.

When you practice good skin hygiene, do cleansing of your cell phone as well. Mobile phones are a hotbed of microbes and germs that easily get transferred to our faces, the longer we spend time with them. So clean your cell phone regularly.

Always wipe off your makeup at the end of the day. No matter how tired you are, wipe off your makeup before sleeping. Makeup can clog your pores and over time the debris can build up and develop into acne. Keep wet wipes besides your bed if you’re too tired by the time you come home.

Clean your brushes, applicators and makeup tools regularly, as they also transfer bacteria to your face.

Acne prevention involves a total overhaul of your lifestyle. While we’ve identified a few ways to help you, it’s up to you to put your skin first.


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