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Face Acne: Causes, Types, Prevention & Treatment Options

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We’ve all been there, standing in front of the mirror, looking at that acne that came out of nowhere and wondering what went wrong. Did you know that acne, a skin condition which has affected most of us at some point in our lives, had more than just one type? No, face acne not just a red bump on your face and no toothpaste isn’t the way to get rid of it. 

  • One of the main causes of acne is clogged pores. When pores get clogged due to sebum, dead skin cells or dirt, they can form a plug which can trap bacteria and result in an infection. 
  • Another major cause of acne are hormones. Rise in the level of Androgen, a type of hormone, can lead to excessive sebum production which can promote bacterial growth, hence contributing to acne. 
  • Some cosmetics and skincare products can also be comedogenic, meaning they clog your pores which can lead to acne. 
  • Other factors that contribute to acne are stress, menstruation and hormonal changes.

Depending on the type, acne can have various symptoms like-

  • Painful bumps on the face
  • Clogged pores
  • Painful lumps under the skin that are pus-filled
  • Small, skin colored bumps
  • Inflammation
  • Uneven skin texture
  • Age- Younger people tend to have more active sebaceous glands and as we get older the amount of sebum production decreases. This puts younger people at a higher risk of developing acne.
  • Genetics- You’re more likely to develop acne if one or both your parents had it too. While acne isn’t necessarily ‘hereditary’, certain gene-related factors may increase your likelihood of having acne.
  • Skin type- We know that sebum is a major culprit for acne. This makes those with oily skin more susceptible to having acne as compared to other skin types.
  • Diet- While diet doesn’t have a direct impact on acne, consuming dairy and foods with a high glycaemic index may trigger acne.
  • Lifestyle habits- Certain lifestyle habits such as not cleansing the face properly, wearing tight clothing etc. could also increase your risk of developing acne on face.
  • Hormonal imbalance- A surge in certain hormones can lead to an increase in oil production. Increased sebum on the skin creates a higher chance of pores getting clogged leading to acne on face and body.

Acne is usually diagnosed on the basis of the kind of inflammation and bumps that are visible. Most often, every kind of acne has characteristic symptoms which we’ll be getting into in a minute. Generally acne can be seen as red, inflamed bumps on the face that are often painful and pus filled. Some other types of acne can be seen as tiny bumps that aren’t raised or inflamed. These are skin coloured and not typically painful.

Acne can widely be classified into two types- Inflammatory and Non-inflammatory acne.

Inflammatory acne

Inflammatory acne is caused when the clogged pores develop a bacterial infection (usually caused by P. acnes) which results in inflammation, redness, swelling and sometimes pain. Inflammatory acne can be of many types-

  • Papules: These are small and pus-filled bumps and may appear as small pimples on the skin.
  • Pustules: These are also pus filled, raised bumps on the skin but are larger than papules. 
  • Nodules: Unlike papules and pustules, nodules are not raised bumps on the surface of the skin. These are small, pus filled and under the skin.
  • Cysts: Cysts are similar to nodules, pus filled and under the skin, but are larger.

 

Non-inflammatory Acne

Non-inflammatory acne is the kind of acne that does not involve any swelling, pus, redness etc. Unlike inflammatory acne, these generally do not lead to scarring. These are mainly of two types-

  • Blackheads: Also called open comedones, these occur as small bumps when the pores are clogged with oil, dead skin or dirt. Interaction with air causes these bumps to appear dark in color.
  • Whiteheads: These are called closed comedones because these occur below a layer of skin, hence are closed. These appear as small skin coloured bumps.

 

Acne is usually treated on the basis of severity and type. Here are some of the common treatments for acne-

For severe acne-

  • Extraction- Extraction is a process, ideally done by a dermatologist which involves manual removal of the plugs clogging the skin using a tool. 
  • Microdermabrasion- Microdermabrasion involves scraping of the topmost layer of the skin to remove dead skin cells using a tool. It is effective in treating face acne as it involves exfoliation and thus prevents clogging of pores. 
  • Laser treatment- Laser treatment works by reducing the production of oil and killing acne causing bacteria on the skin using small but powerful beams of laser. Lasers can also be used to remove acne scars.
  • Peels- Chemical peels work similarly to microdermabrasion. While microdermabrasion is a form of physically exfoliating the skin to get rid of dead skin cells, chemical peels do so by dissolving the bonds between skin cells and gently sloughing away dead skin. Peels can help deeply unclog the pores and resurface newer skin cells.
  • Medication- Oral medication such as Isotretinoin in combination with topical medications may be prescribed by a dermatologist to treat severe acne on face or body.
  • Corticosteroid injection- This involves injecting a corticosteroid onto the affected area which works by reducing inflammation and thus reducing the appearance of severe acne.
  • Hormonal therapy for women- The use of birth control pills and spironolactone are two effective ways of hormonal therapy to treat acne in women.

 

For moderate to mild acne-

  • OTC medications and treatments – While the rest of the treatments require professional guidance, OTC treatments include ingredients such as AHAs, BHAs and Benzoyl Peroxide which have a gentler mode of action against acne. Most of these ingredients work by exfoliating the skin to free trapped sebum or by killing the bacteria responsible for face acne.
  • Antibiotics- Antibiotics may be used as a treatment to get rid of the acne causing bacteria for mild to moderate acne.
  • Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid is a BHA, which works by loosening the dead skin cells and exfoliating the skin, freeing the trapped sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria. 

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide works as a bactericidal against the acne causing bacteria. It prevents the growth of the bacteria and also has exfoliating properties.

  • Using an AHA

Similar to BHAs like Salicylic Acid, AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids also exfoliate the skin and help get rid of dead skin, bacteria and sebum which can cause clogged pores leading to acne. Some popular AHA choices for acne prone skin are Glycolic Acid, hydroxycaproic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid etc.

  • Sulphur

Much gentle in comparison to other ingredients, Sulphur works by absorbing excess sebum and gets rid of dead skin cells. It works best on non-inflammatory acne and can help soothe redness and irritation caused by inflammatory acne. Sulphur can easily be incorporated into your routine in the form of a weekly mask.

  • Adapalene

Adapalene is a form of a retinoid used as a treatment for acne. It works by unclogging the pores and effectively exfoliating to prevent formation of plugs leading to acne. It also reduces inflammation and redness.

  • Vitamin C

While it isn’t as effective as the other ingredients on the list, Vitamin C is still shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which can soothe acne-prone skin. The antioxidant properties associated with Vitamin C can help improve the appearance of acne.

  • Retinol

Retinol works by exfoliating the skin and the increasing collagen production and cell turnover rate. It can prevent the clogging of the pores and get rid of dead skin cells.

  • Myth- Only teenagers can have acne.

While it’s true that teenagers are more susceptible to acne due to highly active sebaceous glands, acne can affect people of any age group.

  • Myth- Eating junk food causes acne.

Eating junk food has no association to acne. Foods that have a high glycaemic index i.e. foods which can increase the sugar level in blood and dairy are known to trigger acne.

  • Myth- Squeezing a pimple will help get rid of it faster.

Squeezing or popping a pimple can cause the pus (if any) to ooze out giving it a smaller appearance. This doesn’t mean your pimple is healed or gone. Squeezing a pimple is one of the worst things you could possibly do as it damages the skin and creates a risk of infection and scarring.

  • Myth- Scrubbing your face every day can prevent acne.

It’s important to wash your face every day and keep it clean, but scrubbing every day is a bad idea as it can result in over-exfoliation and micro tears in the skin. This could result in a bunch of skin problems such as dryness, irritation and can even aggravate acne.

  • Myth- Acne can only occur on the face.

Acne can occur anywhere there’s pores. The clogging of these pores can result in acne. So no, face isn’t the only place where acne can occur. Arms, Back, Chest etc. are some other common spots for acne to develop.

  • Myth- Toothpaste is the best way to treat acne.

While it’s true that some of the ingredients in many toothpastes out there could shrink your pimple, it can lead to irritation and scarring, so avoid using toothpaste on your pimple and stick to science-backed, safe ingredients.

Here are some of the best tips to manage and prevent acne-

  • Wash your face every day and keep your skin clean.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps or chemicals which could irritate the skin and damage your epidermal barrier.
  • Use a hydrating moisturiser to keep the skin supple and moisturised.
  • Avoid touching your face often as it could lead to unnecessary transfer of bacteria and dirt onto the skin.
  • Exfoliate the skin regularly to prevent a build-up of dead skin cells and to control sebum production.
  • Use ingredients like Salicylic Acid, Tea-tree oil or Retinol in your routine to prevent acne.
  • Make masking a part of your routine and invest in good clay, charcoal or sulphur masks to clean the skin and help keep acne at bay.
  • Make sure to change your sheets and pillow cases every few days.
  • Avoid using comedogenic skincare and makeup.
  • Do not use heavy hair products which could clog the pores.
  • Always make sure to remove your makeup before going to bed.

With 2% Salicylic Acid, this serum is the perfect choice for acne prone skin. Combined with Niacinamide, this serum moisturises the skin as it exfoliates. Gentle yet effective, if you’re a beginner this serum is the perfect choice for you.

This unique serum with a combination of AHA and BHA is the one stop solution of exfoliation. It has 2% Salicylic Acid which can effectively treat and prevent acne.

Vitamin C serum helps brightens the skin and soothes acne affected skin. This serum contains 10% Vitamin C, which not only brightens your skin but also protects it from the sun. The Ferulic Acid is the serum aids in the stabilization and enhancement of Vitamin C effectiveness. It also is a potent antioxidant which can minimise photo damage.

Untreated acne may increase in severity and lead to scarring and permanent damage, which is why it’s best to treat and control it early. Although acne can be disheartening to deal with and may harm self-esteem, the good news is that acne can be treated with effective solutions. With consistency and care acne can be treated over time.

  • What is the best face acne treatment?

The best way to treat acne is by keeping your face clean and oil free, you can also use ingredients like Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide to treat stubborn acne. You may be prescribed antibiotics by a dermatologist to treat certain types of acne. 

  • Does drinking water reduce acne?

Although it’s not the most effective way to treat acne, drinking water can help flush out the toxins and may reduce acne over time.

  • Why is my face breaking out all of a sudden?

There can be a variety of reasons for your face breaking out all of a sudden. Some of the common causes include hormonal changes, stress, clogged pores and comedogenic skincare.

  • Why do pimples form?

Pimples can be formed as a result of dirt, sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria clogging the pores.

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