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Acne: What Is Really Going On Under Your Skin?

We’ve all gone through a phase is our lives when we’ve battled with acne. Whether it was a slight breakout once a month, a reaction under stress or acne so severe it causes scarring and requires special medication. From adolescents to adults, acne is the most common skin disorder.

What exactly is acne?

Acne occurs when the hair follicles and pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. This can lead to the formation of uninflamed blackheads, pus filled pimples or red, painful bumps. Acne occurs mostly on the face, back, chest and upper arms.

Common causes of acne:


Acne is normally associated with teens and young adults, as it is the most common age to be afflicted. This is caused by hormone changes (oestrogen and progesterone in girls and testosterone in boys) in the body during puberty that makes the skin oilier. Usually it clears up after a few years, but some people struggle with acne well after their teens. Women commonly breakout right before the start of their menstrual cycle due to the spike in progesterone levels and drop in oestrogen levels after ovulation occurs. Adult acne is more common in women than in men for the same reason, where adolescent or teenage boys are more likely to suffer from mild to severe acne than girls.


Stress can worsen the effects of acne, but it may not be the cause of a new bout of acne. Although it is not clear why it happens, it is believed that stress causes an inflammatory response in the body that can lead to a flare-up of acne.


Using oil-based cosmetics can attribute to the clogging of pores and make acne worse. If you are prone to acne, use oil-free cosmetics that won’t clog your pores and always use a good make-up remover to clean your face.

Certain medication

Some medications contain corticosteroids, androgens or lithium that can worsen acne, especially if taken for longer time periods.


Although it is not fact, some studies show that certain types of food, such as dairy products and carbohydrate rich foods (e.g. bread) may have an effect on acne. This is especially true for someone who is prone to acne, if their diet contains more of the above mentioned foods. It has also been believed for the longest time that eating more chocolate can cause in increase in acne. More studies need to be conducted to confirm if this is true or not, but some studies have shown it to have an adverse affect on acne.

Acne can either be classified as mild (a few pimples on the face or body) or severe (hundreds of pimples covering the face, neck, back and chest). There are a number of different treatment options available, which range from “over the counter” cleansers and ointments to prescribed oral medication and antibiotics.

Usually acne can easily be treated with a good skincare routine consisting of a face wash, cleanser and moisturizer. For people with a naturally oily skin, using an alcohol-based cleanser and oil-free moisturizer is advised. For acne that is a bit more stubborn, using a topical ointment with benzoyl peroxide is preferred. The active ingredient helps to kill bacteria commonly found on the skin that gather in the pores with oil and cause pimples and blackheads.

For more severe cases of acne, a special course of medication is usually recommended. The most common treatment for acne is Roaccutane and its generic form Oratane. Not everyone is a good candidate for the medication though as it affects the liver, so liver function is tested before the medication can be prescribed by a dermatologist. Another common oral treatment is antibiotics, but the extended use of antibiotics is not advised as there are other beneficial bacteria in the body that can also be killed, which can lead to other health problems.

Whether acne is a thing of the past for you, or if you still struggle to get rid of the blackheads on your nose and the odd pimple on your forehead or chin, know that you are not alone. Ensure that you cleanse and moisturize daily and get a good night’s sleep every evening. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing!