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Acne: Treatment, Causes & Tips

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Acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is a long-term skin disease that occurs when hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and oil from the skin. Acne is one skin disease that millions of people around the world suffer from. It lowers your self-esteem, can cause anxiety and lead to depression as well. Skincare is something that has become more prominent, with every individual taking some care or the other of their skin. Acne is such a prominent issue that there are thousands of acne home remedy YouTube videos and skin care tips. There are many acne causes and treatments. Acne is characterized by blackheads or whiteheads, pimples, oily skin, and possible scarring and it primarily affects areas of the skin which tend to have high oil glands like the face, chest and back. In 2015, records reveal that acne affects over 650 million people worldwide making it the 8th most common disease in the world. Acne, as we all know, appears most times during puberty due to the increase in hormone levels in both males and females. Acne types can be categorised as mild, moderate and severe, as it differs with every individual. Acne is simply the presence of clogged skin follicles also known as comedones. For anyone who watches acne YouTube videos, the word ‘comedone’ should not be new.

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Acne Causes

  1. Stress

Stress is one of the known causes of acne in women. A high, stress level can increase the severity of your acne because stress can cause hormonal changes in the body, especially with regards to premenstrual syndrome. This is the reason most girls experience skin breakouts during their menstrual cycle.

  1. Diet

An individual’s diet is a lead cause of acne. High-glycaemic-load diets have been found to have different degrees of effect on acne severity. It isn’t uncommon to hear that greasy foods can cause pimples and other forms of acne, however, is it a myth or a fact? Studies, however, reveal that dairy products like milk and glycaemic foods cause acne.

  1. Genes

Most diseases are hereditary. This means it’s in your genes. Having a direct relative with acne increases your chances of having acne.

  1. Medications

Some medications are not good for your skin. Several medications can worsen pre-existing acne, with examples being lithium, hydantoin, isoniazid, glucocorticoids, iodides, bromides, and testosterone. Such medications react to your skin.

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back acne
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  1. Cosmetics

It is not uncommon to find that a particular cosmetic caused you major breakouts and acne. it is common with fake products. Asides that, some cosmetics are pore clogging which will definitely cause acne. It water-based products are much lighter in weight and will not clog your pores as much. Other times there just might be an ingredient in a product you’re using that does not go well with your skin.

  1. Hormones

Hormonal activity, such as occurs during menstrual cycles and puberty, may contribute to the formation of acne. Puberty results in the increase of sexual hormones called androgens which cause skin follicles to become larger and produce more oil sebum. Other hormones do cause acne and there are some medical conditions which can result in an increase in these hormones, causing severe acne.

  1. Environmental Factors

Physical obstruction of skin follicles can worsen acne. Obstructive gears like hats, helmets, headbands can worsen pre-existing acne.

  1. Infections

It is not uncommon to have skin infections. Some of these skin infections may cause inflammation which is also a factor of acne. These infections can cause pimples, boils, cysts and more.

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Acne Treatment

There are many treatment options for acne available to the average individual. These treatments include lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures. The severity of the acne will determine the best treatment, along with other factors which may include age, skin type, allergies, medication, health, etc.


When treating acne, your diet should be your first target. Cutting down on foods high in sugar content would be beneficial to your acne journey. A dermatologist would recommend you stay away from milk.

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Retinoids are medications which reduce inflammation. They also normalize the follicle cell lifecycle and reduce sebum production. Structurally. They are related to vitamin A. The retinoids ability to influence the cell life cycle in the follicle lining and reduce sebum production means that it can help to prevent the accumulation of skin cells within the hair follicle that can cause blockage of those follicles. This makes retinoids and ideal acne treatment, especially for people with dark-coloured skin, and are known to lead to faster improvement of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) is the first-line treatment for mild and moderate acne. This is due to its effectiveness and mild side-effects (mainly skin irritation). According to Wikipedia, in the skin follicle, benzoyl peroxide kills P. acnes by oxidizing its proteins through the formation of oxygen free radicals and benzoic acid. These free radicals are thought to interfere with the bacterium’s metabolism and ability to make proteins. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide is mildly effective at breaking down comedones and inhibiting inflammation. Benzoyl peroxide may be paired with a topical antibiotic or retinoid such as benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide/adapalene, respectively. Side effects include increased skin photosensitivity, dryness, redness and occasional peeling

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Hormonal agents

Hormonal agents such as combined birth control can help improve acne in women. These birth control pills reduce the production of androgen hormones by the ovaries. This will result in lower sebum production in the skin, further decrease the chances of follicle blockage and consequently reduce acne severity.

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Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is an effective acne treatment because of its ability to reduce skin cell accumulation in the follicle and its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Reduced skin cell accumulation in follicles will free them from potential blockage, thus, preventing acne.  It has a slight skin-lightening effect due to its ability to inhibit melanin synthesis and is therefore useful in treating of individuals with acne who are also affected by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Azelaic acid may cause skin irritation but is otherwise very safe, however, It is less effective and more expensive than retinoids.

Asides medication and your diet, acne can also be treated through medical procedures which may involve comedone extraction. Also, your lifestyle plays a big part in managing acne. Having a skincare routine is key. To manage your acne you may use a combination of facial scrubs, masks, face washes, facial cleansers and essential oils. All these are geared towards your skin pores, tone and skin health. These products also contain active ingredients which help prevent acne.