Acne is a common disease that affects the skin, and it mostly begins in the teenage stage of life. Acne could be mild or severe and most acne cases are resolved without the need for treatment. With severe forms, specific treatments may be required to control the condition from progressing to adulthood. Severe acne is often characterized by acne scars, large papules and nodules. Mild acne on the other hand features skin lesions such as blackheads and whiteheads which occur along with pustules, pimples, seborrhea and papules. This skin condition mostly affects parts of the skin that have the highest number of sebaceous follicles and these include the face, upper chest and back.

When Does Acne Stop?

For most people, this skin condition improves significantly by the age of 25 because the hormones are under control at that time. By the age of 25, oily skin will have transformed into dry skin. That said, acne clears up due to various factors. Some people will have the condition under control with little treatment, while others may have to undergo treatment.

Generally, women have more breakouts and take longer to heal than men. This is attributed to hormonal fluctuations which are linked to the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. A lot of women experience acne breakouts during their menstrual cycle, when pregnant and when undergoing menopause due to hormonal imbalances. Cosmetic use also may have a role to play in acne taking a longer time to clear up.

Why Do I Have Acne?

Common factors

Acne is brought about by:

  • Bacterial buildup

  • Irregular dead skin shedding which leads to the skin follicles getting irritated

  • Overproduction of sebum (oil) in the skin cells

During puberty, the skin naturally produces more sebum – the skin’s natural oil. When combined with dead skin cells, the hair follicles clog up, leading to the development of pimples. Sometimes, bacteria may enter the skin, worsening the situation and leading to an outbreak.

Other factors

Other factors that trigger acne are:

  • Hormones. There are various hormonal changes that we undergo and these may be related to pregnancy or puberty. During puberty, androgen hormones increase in both girls and boys, leading to enlarged sebaceous glands and increased sebum production. The use of oral contraceptives and pregnancy also alters the production of sebum.

  • Certain medications. Certain medications have been known to cause acne and these tend to contain lithium, androgens and corticosteroids.

  • Diet. Studies show that foods rich in carbs such as chips, bagels and bread along with dairy products could trigger acne. This is because they increase your blood sugar levels.

What Are the Treatments for Acne?

Acne treatment is meant to combat bacterial infections, reduce sebum production, control inflammation and increase the turnover of skin cells. A dermatologist may propose that you take oral or topical medication. However, oral medications are not to be taken when pregnancy and especially not in the first trimester. Below is a list of acne treatments:

Over-the-counter drugs

There are topical treatments which help kill bacteria, dry up the sebaceous glands and promote shedding of dead skin. These medications are usually mild and contain active ingredients such as salicylic acid, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide and resorcinol. These ingredients do have side effects and these include dryness, flaking and skin irritation. Luckily, these side effects will improve after the initial month of treatment.

Prescribed drugs

Prescription medication may be deemed more effective if over the counter medication does not work. Some topical treatments that are prescribed include: tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac) differin (adapalene) and treinoin (Retin-A, Avita) all of which are sourced from Vitamin A. These medications work by enhancing skill cell turnover and hair follicle clog ups. Topical antibiotics are also available to kill bacteria.

Prescription medication for acne also may cause some side effects and these may sting and burn the skin, causing peeling and redness. Your dermatologist will recommend some things you can do to reduce the side effects such as washing off the ointment after applying it for a short while or changing medications.


Antibiotics as mentioned are meant to kill bacteria and they also work to reduce inflammation. Usually a short treatment course of oral antibiotics is prescribed for patients with moderate to severe acne. However, a lot of patients have built up a resistance to antibiotics due to increased use. Doctors may recommend reducing the medication as soon as the symptoms improve or when the medication seems to bear no results. Usually, acne treatment will combine oral antibiotics and topical creams. In fact, studies show that combining oral antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide may help reduce the chances of building resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotics come with side effects such as dizziness, skin discoloration and stomach upsets.

Other treatments for acne

If these treatments do not work, you may require further medical evaluation and treatment. Some of the treatments used include: laser light therapy, oral contraceptives and isotretinoin. These treatments must be administered by a professional as they have a number of side effects and health risks.

Dos & Don'ts When You Have Acne

  • Wash you face properly. Washing your face removes impurities, excess oil and dead skin cells. Use warm water to clean your face and a mild cleanser. Harsh soaps and over scrubbing could irritate the skin, worsening the condition.

  • Use the right moisturizer. Most acne products dry out the skin and it is therefore important that you moisturize. Go for moisturizers made specifically for your skin type.

  • Use makeup correctly. Makeup is good for covering imperfections, but it could worsen the condition. Blush, foundation and powders should be avoided during breakouts. Go for oil-free makeup that is free of chemicals and dyes.

  • Limit exposure in the sun. UV rays can increase redness on your skin and inflammation. Some acne treatments also increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so you might reduce exposure to the sun when it’s at its peak which is between 10 am and 2 pm. Wear protective clothing and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

  • Take care when you shave. You shave easier when your beard is soft and you can soften it with soap and water. Apply shaving cream and shave only when you need to.

  • Don’t pick or squeeze the acne. Picking your face and squeezing pimple may lead to scarring and infections.

Acne is so unsightly and uncomfortable. Watch this video to get some tips on stopping acne breakouts:


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