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Acne: causes, symptoms and treatments

Acne: causes, symptoms and treatments


Acne is an inflammation of the skin characterized by blackheads, whiteheads and red spots commonly called “pimples”. The most common form of acne is called vulgar acne (” vulgar ” with common sense). Acne most often appears on the face, but also on the chest, back and upper arms. Acne affects about 90% of adolescents and can also occur during adulthood, especially in people aged 20 to 40 years. It generates a greater number of medical consultations than any other problem of the skin.

Acne is not life threatening, but it can cause annoyance, disfigurement and psychosocial problems. Acne can also leave accented and permanent scars.


Acne is caused by hyperactivity of the sebaceous glands. These glands usually produce small amounts of sebum, a thick substance that contains oil and skin cells. When you have acne, these glands produce an excess of sebum that can clog your follicles and bacteria can settle in, especially a strain called Propionibacterium acnes.

The activity of hormones can cause an acne breakout or an increase in the number of lesions. The hormones of puberty strongly stimulate the production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. The hormones that have the most pronounced effects on the sebaceous glands are the so-called androgenic male hormones. They are secreted by the man and the woman, but their rate is higher in the male organism.

These hormones can also cause acne during the female menstrual cycle, and this is why women often still have acne in adulthood. The hormones found in some types of birth control pills can also cause acne breakouts.

The consumption of junk food and chocolate is not a cause of acne. Oily hair and skin do not cause acne, but it is often a sign of hyperactivity of the sebaceous glands, the true cause of acne. Research suggests that stress is likely to aggravate existing acne, but it does not cause it.

A predisposition to acne can be hereditary.

Anything that produces skin irritation can also trigger acne, including z:

  • Rubbing clothes;
  • The licking of a dog too affectionate;
  • Contact with certain sports equipment;
  • The application of certain beauty products;
  • Exposure of the skin to extreme temperatures.

Medications called corticosteroids can induce a skin disorder similar to acne.

Symptoms and Complications

The symptoms of acne vary from one person to another, they can manifest themselves by:

  • Blackheads (black spots the size of a pinhead) that open onto the surface of your skin and leave no scars;
  • White spots or pustules that are the most common type of acne and form the first lesions – they do not turn into blackheads because they are not exposed to air;
  • Deep pustules and cysts that are inflamed; they are usually red and swollen and obviously contain pus;
  • Deep acne that can be more serious – the lesions are usually red, inflamed, purulent and painful to the touch.

Deep acne often appears on the back and chest. It is usually the most difficult form of acne to treat, and is likely to leave scars. Deep acne has pustules and cysts that occur most of the time on the surface of the skin, or sometimes in the deeper layers of the skin. In case of rupture, the pus that is released will cause the formation of other lesions.

Deep acne can lead to scars. If you try to puncture or pinch the buttons, this manipulation often leaves a small crater that can become permanent. Men are more likely to have scars because they are more often than women with deep acne.


The diagnosis of acne is based on the characteristics of the lesions. Your doctor may perform a physical examination and note the medical and personal history to rule out other possible explanations for these injuries. He sometimes asks questions about the beauty products and medications you use.

Treatment and Prevention

Most of the skin cleansing products advertised by acne advertising is not needed. In fact, they may even aggravate acne. In their place, your doctor will probably recommend some of the following products:

  • Ointments and lotions based on benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid or sulfur, sold over the counter anywhere. They are desquamating and desiccating agents that open the pores of the skin and help remove dead skin cells. Their beneficial effects occur after about 2 weeks, and these products must be used continuously to maintain their effectiveness. These products should be applied to the entire affected area and not just to the pimples;
  • Taking oral contraceptives can help regulate the activity of hormones that cause acne breakouts in some women;
  • An antibiotic lotion or a retinoic acid product (a vitamin A derivative) applied directly to the skin is usually effective for more severe cases;
  • Oral antibiotics (e.g. tetracycline *, minocycline) are sometimes given against deep acne;
  • Prescription medications (e.g., isotretinoin) are effective in the treatment of deep acne. However, they must be prescribed with caution for women. It is therefore important to discuss the risks and benefits of these medications with your doctor;
  • Collagen injections and laser cosmetic surgery are helpful in cases of scars caused by deep acne.

Many of these treatments can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. They must be used together with adequate protection against the sun’s rays. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the risks and benefits of the various treatment options available to you.

Observe the following basic principles to prevent and treat acne:

  • Wash your face twice a day at most with a mild, unscented soap or choose a cleanser that does not contain soap;
  • Dry your skin by dabbing it with a clean towel instead of rubbing it;
  • Refrain from crushing, squeezing or puncturing;
  • Avoid scrubbing or vigorously washing your skin with hard or granular (abrasive) soap;
  • Use a new washcloth every day
  • Use non-comedogenic beauty products that will not clog your pores and not trigger an acne breakout;
  • Do you shampoo at least twice a week;
  • Eliminate as soon as possible the sweat and sebum that spread on your skin;
  • Let your doctor extract comedones;
  • It is true that foods are not among the causes of acne, but some people find that their acne increases after the consumption of certain foods. If this is the case for you, avoid these foods.

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