Acne: What and Why?

Acne is commonest skin problem in India. It is believed that 90% of people suffer with acne at some time in their life. Acne can become a chronic condition if not identified and treated on time.

Acne (commonly called pimples) can occur at any age. It can occur in babies, men and women. Acne is most common in teenage.

Acne can lead to significant physical and psychological scarring and affect self-esteem of the teenagers. People who are suffering with acne are prone to develop depression. The good news is that there are effective treatments available for acne.

Cause  for Acne

Excess production of oil by oil glands occurs in teenage secondary to excess production of androgens (sex hormones). Hair follicles are connected to oil glands. Excess oil production along with dead skin cells clogs hair follicles. This can cause whiteheads. This when exposed to air, turns black causing blackheads (dirt is not the cause of blackheads). Clogged hair follicles are prone for bacterial overgrowth. This leads to inflammation and results in pustules and nodules.

A bacterium called Cutibacterium acnes (Propionibacterium acnes) is the main organism attributed to the infection.

Risk factors for Acne

  • Hormonal changes
  • Family history of acne
  • Certain medications like oral contraceptive pills and steroid medications
  • Diet rich in carbohydrates

Whatever is the cause of acne, it is important to seek medical care so that long term sequel in the form of  chronic cane and scars can be avoided.

Acne can present in any of these forms

  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Papules
  • Pustules
  • Nodules
  • Cysts

Acne can present on the face, back, chest and upper arms.


Acne treatments are available in the form of topical ointments/gels, oral medications.

Topical gels include topical antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide and another group of medications called retinoids. Oral medications include antibiotics, a medication called Isotretinoin and hormonal pills.

Your doctor chooses a combination of medications depending on your age, whether you are a woman or a man, how long you have had it, the severity and type of acne.

Whatever is the chosen medication, an important step in treatment of acne is sticking to the regimen prescribed by the doctor and following up with the doctor as advised.

If you are a woman, doctor may advise you to avoid getting pregnant and avoid excessive exposure to sunlight, when you are on certain Acne medication.

Most often, acne subsides as teenage years pass. Almost all acne can be successfully treated with the current available medications. In some resistant cases it may take some time, so don’t lose hope.

Some tips for dealing with acne

  • Wash your face twice a day with a mild soap, especially after coming from outside and after physical activity that causes sweating.
  • Do not scrub your face. This might aggravate acne.
  • Shampoo regularly to keep your hair clean. Shampoo daily if you have oily hair.
  • Do not pick, squeeze or pop your acne. This will take longer for acne to clear and can lead to permanent scarring
  • Keep your hands off your face, to avoid flare ups.
  • Eat a well balanced diet.
  • Though stress does not cause acne, it can aggravate acne, so relax.

Take a deep breath and be patient. This too shall pass.

Dr.Lavanya Aribandi, MD, Chief Medical Officer, eKincare.


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