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Acne: Types, symptoms, causes, treatment, prevention and more

Getting acne breakouts does not harm your overall well-being but can surely hit your confidence. We cover everything about acne breakouts right here!

When it comes to having good skin, there is always a culprit that keeps you away from it. We are talking about the stubborn acne that pops up in your life like a bad dream anytime it wants to. While we all have experienced acne at some point or the other, people only know a fraction of what acne is. If acne has been your worst enemy and has been bothering you, here is a guide that tells you everything you need to know about acne.

What is acne?

Our skin is made up of tiny holes called pores that get clogged by oil production, bacteria, dead skin cells, and grime. When this happens, you have higher chances of developing acne, at times also called a blemish or breakout. If you begin getting bumps on your face every now and them, or several of them pop up at once and doesn’t go away easily, you have acne.

Having acne is a common thing. As per research published in the British Journal of Dermatology, approximately 9.4 per cent of people worldwide suffer from acne. Even though acne does not lead to any serious risk to your health, it can still be a struggle to deal with because it can be painful in severe conditions. If not treated timely, acne may lead to scarring.

While acne should not make you feel a certain way, many people with acne or scars on their face tend to have low self-esteem and self-confidence. However, the good news is that acne is a treatable condition with many effective treatments available.

Also Read: My mom says green tea and honey face scrub keeps acne at bay!

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Get to know everything about acne. Image courtesy: Pexels

Different types of acne

If you suffer from acne, you will notice a mix of different types. Whiteheads and blackheads are the most commonly occurring lesions:

  • Blackheads: Also known as open comedones, these are open at the uppermost of your skin. The oxygen present in the air renders them a dark colour.
  • Whiteheads or closed comedones develop as raised bumps beneath the surface of your skin caused by dead skin cells and oils that naturally block your pores.

However, there are inflammatory lesions that have higher chances of causing scarring on the skin, including:

  • Papules: These are tiny, red, raised bumps, which are an outcome of inflamed or infected hair follicles.
  • Pustules: These are those tiny red pimples that are filled with pus at their tips.
  • Nodules: These solid and mostly painful lumps get created under the surface of your skin.
  • Cysts: These are those large lumps under your skin that are filled with pus and are mostly painful.
  • Mild acne: Fewer than 15 inflamed bumps or fewer than 30 total lesions fall into the “mild acne” category. They are generally treated with over the counter topical medicine.
  • Severe nodulocystic acne: It causes multiple inflamed cysts and nodules that often turn deep red or purple if left untreated. They can also leave scars.

Symptoms of acne

Acne can develop anywhere on your body, but they are seen commonly around certain areas like:

• Face and neck
• Back
• Shoulders
• Chest

Acne on your skin can render a rough, uneven texture. Alongside acne, you also notice certain other symptoms like:

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• Skin discolouration that also includes dark patches, spots, or redness
• Inflammation or swelling
• Pain and tenderness when touched

Also Read: Make forehead acne disappear with 6 expert-recommended tips

What causes acne?

Acne is an outcome of clogged or blocked pores of your skin because of oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Every pore of your skin ends up in a follicle. Every follicle is made up of hair and an oil gland. The oil gland causes a release of sebum, which goes up to the hair, out of the pore, and comes out to your skin. Sebum production aids in keeping your skin soft and lubricated. Any mishaps in this lubrication process can lead to acne.

Acne can occur due to any of the following reasons:

  • Your follicles produce excess oil
  • Accumulation of dead skin cells in your pores
  • Built up of bacteria in your pores
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Greasy or oily hair products
  • Excessive sweating and humidity
  • Certain medication

Any of these issues can contribute to acne, which develops when bacteria grows in clogged pores and the oil finds no place to escape.

Acne surely kills your confidence. Learn how to curb this skin condition. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Risk factors that lead to acne

It is still not completely understood why some people get acne while others don’t. However, there can be a certain number of risk factors that can lead to or worsen acne, and some of those include:

  • Hormonal imbalances due to pregnancy or puberty
  • Polycystic ovarian disease and other endocrine conditions
  • Smoking
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Stress
  • Cleansers, moisturizers, or other beauty products that have a high oil content
  • A family history of acne

Puberty is that stage of life when your skin develops the most acne. During this time, many hormonal changes happen in your body. These can increase sebum production, which can lead to acne. Hormonal acne that starts during puberty generally heals when we reach adulthood and can even stop coming completely.

Foods to get rid of acne

As per the 2021 study published in the journal Springer, some types of foods or diets can have an effect on acne as well.

1. Low glycemic index diet

Lowering down your intake of foods with high glycemic index like refined carbs and added sugars can help curb acne breakouts.

2. Milk products

Consumption of certain milk products like milk and ice cream seems to aggravate acne for some people. However, other foods like cheese as well as non-milk products don’t seem to worsen acne.

3. Fat and fatty acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may aid in curbing acne breakouts.

4. Vegan and vegetarian diet

While vegan and vegetarian products boast a plethora of health benefits. However, there is still little evidence that supports their favourable role in the treatment of acne.

5. Probiotics

Probiotics, found in yoghurt or fermented foods and supplements, can help alleviate acne, but there is support needed to say that they can be found effective in acne treatment.

Treatment for acne

The goal of treating acne is to clear the existing acne, stop new breakouts and also prevent acne marks and scars. Some effective treatments for acne as per cosmetologist and trichologist Dr Priti Mahare include:

1. Benzoyl peroxide

This decreases the acne-causing bacteria. This molecule is the most effective one which works on nearly all types of acne. This comes in the strength of 2.5% and 5%. They come in many forms like cleansing bars, face wash, gels and creams. Benzoyl peroxide works by reducing the inflammation caused by acne and also reduces the acne bacteria. Oral antibiotics can be clubbed with this to reap the maximum benefits. Apply this on the acne or comedones, leave it overnight and then wash off, says the expert.

2. Salicylic acid

This drug has been in use for many years to treat acne. Salicylic acid opens the clogged pores and exfoliates the skin. This also works well for whiteheads and blackheads. It comes in different strengths and forms like cleaners, gels and creams. Be sure to use this product under doctor’s guidance.

3. Retinoids

Retinoids work to clear your pores and treat blackheads, whiteheads and acne. Retinoids also help in lightening the acne spots and help decrease the oil production as well. There are various types of retinoids like retinol, adapalene, tretinoin, retinol, tells the expert.

She further adds, “In certain cases, retinoids may irritate the skin slightly. To reduce the irritation you can either apply a small amount of retinol or use retinol less often or apply moisturiser first then apply retinoid. One thing to note for this medication is that you need to compulsorily apply sunscreen when using retinoids and these should be applied only after sunset”.

4. Azelaic acid

“Azelaic acid comes in two strengths 10% and 20%, of which 20% is used to treat ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic Hormone). This works by opening the clogged pores, works on acne-causing bacteria and even reduces the inflammation caused due to acne. It can also treat dark spots when the acne clears off”.

5. Clindamycin

This is an antibiotic that helps in decreasing the number of acne lesions and also stops the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Before using any of these, first clean your face with a cleanser or a face wash, pat the area dry, and apply a thin layer of the medication to the affected area.

Any of this medication generally takes between two to six weeks to notice desirable results and may even take up to 12 weeks to see the full benefits.

Home remedies to treat acne

There are various home remedies for acne that can work well for people. Instead of trying anything that you come across, try these home remedies that can help clear acne and help prevent further breakouts:

  • Apply tea tree oil.
  • Use aloe vera gel.
  • Apply a honey mask.
  • Revive your face with green tea.
  • Refrain from touching your face.
  • Never squeeze your pimples as it may cause scarring and can also increase the spread of bacteria.

How to prevent acne?

While it is not always possible to entirely prevent acne, you can take measures at home to reduce your chances of getting acne breakouts.

Try out these tips:

  • Cleanse your skin with an oil-free cleanser.• Give an OTC acne cleanser a try to help remove excess oil.
  • Use water-based makeup products or products that claim they are “non-comedogenic”- which means they are less likely to clog your pores.
  • Say no to skincare and makeup products that have oil in them.
  • Make it a point to wipe off all makeup from your skin before retiring to bed.
  • Wash your face or shower post-workout.
  • Keep your hair tied at the back to keep it away from your face.
  • Take initiatives to curb stress.
  • Eat a balanced diet, and amp up your fluid intake.

Now that you know everything about acne, get these treated by a doctor to avoid any complications and deal with them with care.

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