Acne and its Causes (2020)

What is Acne

What is Acne?

Acne primarily occurs when our face’s pores get clogged with whiteheads, blackheads, or lumps like cysts or nodules. One of the most common question across today’s teens is What is Acne and what are remedies for it. Acne appears on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, back, and upper arms. It is very common with teenagers but adults till the age of forty can be affected by acne. It is not hazardous to health, but it creates blemishes on the body, which is very irritating. Acne causes scarring, which is often permanent.

Acne is not dependent upon race, ethnicity, colour or sex. Nearly 100% of people belonging to the age group of twelve to seventeen suffer from the occasional blackhead, whitehead or pimple. Most of these young people can take care of this problem with some medications that can be had over the counter. For some, the problem is severe and needs professional care. About 40% of adolescents and teenagers suffer from severe problems requiring a physician’s assistance to be cured.

Acne Symptoms

The most common acne form is known as “acne vulgaris,” meaning “common acne.” Excessive secretion of oils from the sebaceous glands combines with naturally occurring dead skin cells to block the hair follicles. There also appears to be in some instances a faulty keratinization process in the skin leading to abnormal shedding of skin lining the pores.

Oil secretions build up beneath the blocked pore, providing a perfect environment for the skin bacteria Propionibacterium acnes to multiply uncontrolled. In response, the skin inflames, producing the visible lesion. The face, chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms are especially affected.

What is Acne

The typical acne lesions are: comedones, papules, pustules, nodules and inflammatory cysts. These are the more inflamed form of pus-filled or reddish bumps, even boil-like tender swellings. Non-inflamed ‘sebaceous cysts’, more appropriately called epidermoid cysts, occur either in association with acne or alone but are not a constant feature. After resolution of acne lesions, prominent unsightly scars may remain.

Aside from scarring, its main effects are psychological, such as reduced self-esteem and depression. Acne usually appears during adolescence, when people already tend to be most socially insecure.

Acne Causes

Exactly why some people get acne and some do not is not fully known. It is known to be partly hereditary. Several factors are known to be linked to acne:

  1. Hormonal activity, such as menstrual cycles and puberty
  2. Stress, through increased output of hormones from the adrenal (stress) glands.
  3. Hyperactive sebaceous glands, secondary to the three hormone sources above.
  4. Accumulation of dead skin cells.
  5. Bacteria in the pores, to which the body becomes ‘allergic.’
  6. Skin irritation or scratching of any sort will activate inflammation.
  7. Use of anabolic steroids.
  8. Any medication containing halogens (iodides, chlorides, bromides), lithium, barbiturates, or androgens.
  9. Exposure to high levels of chlorine compounds, particularly chlorinated dioxins, can cause severe, long-lasting acne, known as Chloracne.

Traditionally, attention has focused mostly on hormone-driven over-production of sebum as the main contributing factor of acne. More recently, more attention has been given to the narrowing of the follicle channel as a second leading contributing factor.


Abnormal shedding of the cells lining the follicle, abnormal cell binding (“hyperkeratinization“) within the hair, and water retention in the skin (swelling the skin and so pressing the follicles shut) have all been put forward as essential mechanisms.

Several hormones have been linked to acne: the male hormones testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), as well as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I). In addition, acne-prone skin has been shown to be insulin resistant.

In later years, the development of acne vulgaris is uncommon, although this is the age group for Rosacea, which may have similar appearances. True acne vulgaris in older adults may be a feature of an underlying condition such as pregnancy and disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome or the rare Cushing’s syndrome.

Misconceptions about Acne Causes

There are many misconceptions and rumors about what does and does not lead to acne causes:


One flawed study purported that chocolate, french fries, potato chips, and sugar, among others, affect acne. A recent review of scientific literature cannot affirm either way. The consensus among health professionals is that acne sufferers should experiment with their diets and refrain from consuming such fare if they find such food affects their acne’s severity.

Based on a survey of 47,335 women, a recent study found a positive epidemiological association between milk consumption and acne, mainly skimmed. The researchers hypothesize that the association may be caused by hormones (such as bovine IGF-I) present in cow milk, but this has not been definitively shown.


Seafood, on the other hand, may contain relatively high levels of iodine, but probably not enough to cause an acne outbreak. Still, people prone to acne may want to avoid excessive consumption of foods high in iodine. It has also been suggested that there is a link between a diet high in refined sugars and acne.

According to this hypothesis, the startling absence of acne in non-westernized societies could be explained by the low glycemic index of these tribes’ diets. Further research is necessary to establish whether a reduced consumption of high-glycemic foods (such as soft drinks, sweets, white bread) can significantly alleviate acne. However, consumption of high-glycemic foods should be kept to a minimum, for general health reasons.

Deficient Personal Hygiene

Acne is not caused by dirt. This misconception probably comes from the fact that acne involves skin infections. In fact, the blockages that cause what is acne occur deep within the narrow follicle channel, where it is impossible to wash them away. These plugs are formed by the cells and sebum created there by the body. The bacteria involved are the same bacteria that are always present on the skin. 

skin cleansing

Regular cleansing of the skin can reduce, but not prevent, what is acne for a particular individual and very little variation among individuals is due to hygiene. Anything beyond very gentle cleansing can actually worsen existing lesions and even encourage new ones by damaging or overdrying skin.


Common myths state that either celibacy or masturbation causes acne and, conversely, that sexual intercourse can cure it. There is absolutely no scientific evidence suggesting that any of these are factual. It is true, though, that anger and stress affect hormone levels and, thus bodily oil production. Whether or not any increases in oil production due to stress are enough to cause acne is currently being researched.

Impact of Acne

Acne may seem to be very trivial, but you will be surprised to know that it does have an economic impact as well. Approximately a hundred million dollars a year are spent on non-prescriptive drugs that most teenagers buy to get rid of what is acne.

impact of acne

This amount does not include the money spent on the cleansers and soaps that have been made for controlling acne. Besides this, one needs to visit the dermatologist and buy the medicines that he has prescribed. It also requires money.


You have come to know that you are not the only one who is suffering from this problem. A careful skin-cleansing regimen needs to be followed to have a healthy skin. If you like the article on what is acne and remedies to reduce acne, share it with your friends and family. Do leave your valuable views on what is acne in the comment section.

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This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related topics. The information and other content provided on this blog are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This blog does not advise, diagnose, or treat any medical, nursing, or other professional health services. We cannot diagnose the condition, provide secondary feedback, or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website. If you or anyone else has a medical concern, you should consult your healthcare provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately.

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