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  • Writer's pictureAli Rislan

Acne: What, Why, How

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

What is acne, why do you have it, and how can you manage it?


Did you know that acne affects up to 95% of people under the age of 30, and 1 in 5 people between the ages of 40-49?

That's an awfully large amount of people to be affected by something so misunderstood.


The truth is that most people will struggle with a form of acne at some point in their life. You'll try home remedies, over-the-counter products, and whatever your favourite skinfluencer recommends on Instagram. Each product after the next promises to cure your acne for good, and each time you hope this is the one that finally does it. To your dismay, the acne just keeps coming back. In some cases, it even gets worse.


Remember that there is a way to manage acne, however improbable that may seem now. Keep reading to better understand the condition, and learn what you can do for your skin to manage acne.


What is Acne?

Acne, medically known as acne vulgaris, is a skin condition that is characterised by recurring red inflamed pimples. It's important to note here that you likely don't have acne if you just have sporadic minor breakouts.


Acne can present as various different "spots", such as:

Acne treatment | A picture showing different type of acne.

Acne can vary in severity from person to person. You'll usually have blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples but more severe cases can present with papules, cysts, and nodules. Scarring is more likely with these more severe "spots". So, even though you've heard it a thousand times: avoid popping spots to avoid acne scarring.


You may find acne developing on the face, back, and chest. Research says that these are the most common areas of the body affected by acne, though acne on the chest is more rare.


Why Do You Have Acne?

It's important to remember that acne does not occur because of poor hygiene. This is a common misconception and it couldn't be further from the truth. Most of what causes acne happens beneath the skin, and so the cleanliness of your skin plays little role. Acne actually develops because:

Acne Treatment | An image displaying the cause of acne.

Sebum, which is an oil naturally produced by your skin, can get trapped in your pores & hair follicles along with dead skin cells. This leads to the appearance of whiteheads, which can then worsen when the normal bacteria, called p. acnes, that lives on your skin also gets trapped with the sebum. The whiteheads may develop into more severe papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules when the bacteria begins to grow.


But, why do some people have more severe acne than others? And why do some lucky few never get acne at all? Research points to these factors that increase your risk of developing acne:

  • Hormone activity can cause acne, specifically an increase in androgens and androgen receptor sensitivity. These changes can enlarge your pores and cause your skin to overproduce sebum. This significantly increases the chances of your pores and hair follicles becoming clogged.

  • Dry skin works in a very similar way, though it technically isn't a cause of acne it can worsen it significantly. Your skin overproduces sebum when it is dry, which again increases the chance of clogged pores and hair follicles; leading to acne.

  • Impaired skin barrier function can cause dehydrated skin which may lead to acne.

  • A family history of acne increases your chances of developing it.

  • Some medications such as corticosteroids, hormone therapy, and lithium.

Some factors such as stress, diet, and friction can worsen acne.


How Can You Manage Your Acne?

Notice how we said manage your acne? Unfortunately, there is no cure for it, but with the right care, you can significantly reduce its appearance. Here are a few ways (the first 3 you can even start right now) that you can control your acne:

  1. Dietary changes can have a big impact on the severity and appearance of your acne. Try to avoid dairy foods, refined carbohydrates, and foods high in sugar.

  2. Periods of elevated stress causes increased cortisol production. Cortisol then causes an increase in sebum production which may block pores and hair follicles. It's easier said than done, but finding ways to manage your stress can help to manage your acne.

  3. Try to avoid friction in areas affected by acne. This could be wearing more loosely fitted clothing, or helmets that don't harshly contact the skin of the face during sports.

  4. The right skincare products & treatments for your skin can work absolute wonders. Not all skincare is created equal for you, what works for your friends or Instagram influencers might not work for you. Finding the right products & treatments that complement your skin where it is lacking is key. Consult with a skincare professional to find the best options for your skin.

  5. Medication such as:

    • Roaccutane can be prescribed to manage acne, though this is generally reserved for the more severe cases due to the side effects that come with it.

    • Antibiotics can also be prescribed for more severe acne. The idea is to reduce the p. acnes bacteria's presence on the skin, which is involved in causing severe acne.

    • Some contraceptive pills such as Dianette and other anti-androgenic contraceptives can help with acne in women by regulating androgen levels to reduce sebum overproduction.

    • Finasteride can be a good option for men with severe acne if other treatments have not helped. This works as an anti-androgenic to reduce sebum production.

We understand that managing acne can still be a difficult and confusing process even with this information, especially when you've already tried so many things that haven't worked for you. Click the button below and fill out the form to book a consultation with Dr Hala, for a full skin analysis along with product, treatment, and lifestyle recommendations tailored to your skin.


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