What is acne – Types, Causes, Do’s & Don’ts, Foods

Being acne-prone can be embarrassing, tiresome, and frustrating. “Acne” is a broad term that generally refers to skin problems such as clogged pores, infected pores, and red bumps attributed to hormonal changes, genetics, and how well one maintains their skin. There are many types as well as many treatments. Acne does not have to leave you disheartened, though. This article will explain the types of acne one can experience, what to do and not do when treating acne, as well how diet can affect acne.

Most people know that acne is a medical condition that can arise from the hormonal changes that occur during puberty. What most people don’t know is that acne can continue to occur through adulthood or as the result of having oily skin. Even babies can get acne! (Please don’t touch or you could give your little one ugly scars!) A basic definition of acne is that it is a condition caused by hair follicles getting plugged up with oil or sebum (dead skin cells).  The point is, acne has the potential to affect anyone. It is natural, and there is no need to be ashamed, but below is all the information you need to tackle acne through diet, following certain do’s and dont’s and by, possibly, seeking advice of a dermatologist.

Types of Acne

Acne Vulgaris comes in different, often painful forms, but are generally harmless:

  • Blackheads: These little guys are clogged pores that, as the name implies, appear black at the affected site.
  • Whiteheads: This form of acne is much like a blackhead. It is the result of a clogged follicle. It is also true that the name aptly describes the colour. The main difference is that whiteheads are covered by a thin layer of skin.
  • Papules: These painful monsters are often not too nice to touch and may leave your skin feeling sore. They are red and raised and often appear in clusters.
  • Pustules: Pustules are, as you can imagine, filled with pus. They may be yellow or white and it is advised not to pop them as they can leave behind scars.
  • Nodules: This form of acne is more serious form of acne. This form of acne is a painful lesion that develops underneath skin tissue and present as hard bumps on the skin.
  • Cysts: This acne is also fairly severe. There are several different types of cysts, but most appear as inflamed (painful and red) tissue filled with a large bubble of pus. Contrary to “amateur pimple popping” videos that you may have witnessed…this type of acne is best left to a fully trained medical practitioner.

the real pictures looks like this

Acne Mechanica is a different form of acne that results from pressure, heat and friction on the skin. This kind is likely to occur on those who pursue athletics and also people who are just acne prone. These can appear in the form of inflamed lesions or small “comedones” which are more commonly could be called a tiny bump.

Acne Conglobata is among the most severe forms of acne, per webmd.com. Essentially, it presents as nodules that form pathways under your skin to other nodules. It is often seen on the chest, arms, and buttocks. Taking steroids and testosterone is a common reason for this acne to take effect. It is very important to get this acne treated by a doctor!

Severe Nodulocystic Acne is a severe form of acne that has a lot of inflamed cysts and nodules. They may appear bright red and purple and leave scars. Prompt treatment can reduce the likelihood of scars.

While most acne is harmless, there is one dangerous (but, thankfully, rare) form of acne to watch out for:

  • Acne Fulminans: Although not common, this form of acne can leave lasting damage to its host. It appears mainly on teenage boys and appears in the form of bright red nodules on the chest and back. The reason it is important to mention is that not only could the affected host be left with severe scarring, but also with joint and other health issues.

What causes acne?

There are many old wives’ tales that tell us that acne is caused by eating chocolate or having a dirty face can cause acne. These simply aren’t true. As the author (whom has only had minor breakouts), I can tell you that chocolate is my favourite food and that even when I haphazardly forget to wash my face on busy days, and I simply do not get acne. As you’ll learn below, my good genetics also help me have a clear face. Meanwhile, my best friend struggled with many acne bumps over the years has vigorously washed her face and doesn’t even chocolate!

Acne is caused by

  • Hormones: Often, acne arises during puberty (the “teenage” years) as a result of natural growth hormones that raise and lower throughout the term of this natural process. The cruelest creator of acne, testosterone, causes the skin to produce more sebum (an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands) to be produced in adolescents. It is also worth noting that women also experience influxes of androgen and Estrogen that cause acne.
  • Heredity: Nothing like blaming your family for your face, right? If your parents were acne prone it would be likely that you might suffer from it, too. Your family history is often responsible for how your immune system attacks invaders such as sebum and dead skin. Your skin may push out all the bad stuff or it could even get infected. Good old genetics!
  • Stress: Stress does not necessarily cause acne, but it can make acne worse. Cortisol and androgen from stress can make your skin produce more oil which can cause pimples or make them worse.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Acne Care


  • Reduce Swelling: If you have acne that appears swollen you can help yourself out by using an ice pack or a piece of ice on your face for a short period of time. It may work or it may not, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Remember not to irritate your skin by using ice over an extended period of time.
  • Sulfur-Based Cream: Using a sulfur-based cream (often found OTC) such as benzoyl peroxide or sulfur and resorcinol can reduce acne. Unfortunately, you will probably not completely rid yourself of acne and may cause your skin to dry out. Never combine products or using more than the recommended amount.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: If you have large acne cysts, a dermatologist can inject your skin with a corticosteroid to reduce swelling and help you to not scar. Wait a few days for results and never pick your skin at the site!
  • Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is good for several different things, but did you know it is good for treating acne? Basically, tea tree oil attacks the bacteria and help minor skin irritations such as acne. Always test a small amount on your wrist (24-hours!) before applying directly to your acne. You don’t want an allergic reaction.
  • Use Full-Coverage Concealer: If you have no time to waste, you can use concealer with enough pigment to hide bumps with just a thin coat. However, try to look for non-comedogenic products and remember to wash off your make-up when it is no longer necessary.


  • Squeeze your pimples:Even if you love to watch Pimple Popper videos…you shouldn’t actually “pop” your pimples. All you’re actually doing is making it harder for your skin to heal and making it more likely to get an infection or to scar. The big takeaway is that you won’t even be able to use makeup to cover the blemish because your concealer will just make the pit in your face look more noticeable
  • Apply Toothpaste:This age old tip is a misguided one. While some ingredients can dry up pimples, others can actually make acne worse. You can also have an allergic reaction to some of the other ingredients. Mother knows best, but doctors know better.
  • Apply Crushed Aspirin: Aspirin is similar in composition to salicylic acid, but it’s not the same. The kind of the salicylic acid you need will be in the beauty aisle, because it is made JUST for skin in the same way aspirin is made JUST for ADULTS who are in pain.Get a Facial: Sure, facials can help acne, but at the same time, you will not be looking good for a few days as your skin recovers from inflammation from the procedures.
  • Camouflage With Accessories: Remember, heat and friction actually cause acne. Let your skin breathe!

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

Let it be known

Acne is not necessarily caused by your diet. However, studies have shown that a diet rich in certain macro and micro-nutrients are linked to lower levels of acne. The way you eat can cause hormones to fluctuate nice and evenly or dramatically such as in the case of insulin. Hormone regulation helps to prevent acne. The follow foods and nutrients are linked to less acne.

  • Complex Carbs: I’ve bet you’ve heard this before: wheat flour, brown rice, yams, legumes, unprocessed produce, etc. are so much better for you than white flour, white rice, and potatoes. Guess what? Acne is another reason to stop eating these foods in large quantities. Lower glycemic-index foods keep insulin stable which can, in turn, affect the efficiency of other hormones.
  • Zinc: Oysters, crabs, fortified cereal, lobster, beans, chicken, yoghurt, cashews, chickpeas, are all rich in zinc.
  • Vitamin A: Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Milk, Kale, Salmon, Eggs, Mangoes and Carrots are all rich in Vitamin A.
  • Vitamin E: Avocados, Broccoli, Spinach, Sunflower Seeds, all have a wealth of vitamin E.
  • Antioxidants: Strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, dark chocolate (surprise!), blackberries, pecans, tomatoes, and beets are all rich in this micro-nutrient!

How Can A Dermatologist Help?

  • Topical Acne Treatment: Some of these help kill bacteria while others work on reducing oil. Your doctor may also give you a product containing a retinoid, prescription strength benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics or even salicylic acid.
  • Ingestible Medicine: Antibiotics, birth control pills (for women), and isotretinoin can all help acne.
  • Procedures: Dermatologists have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. These include lasers, light therapy, chemical peels, and manual acne removal with medically sterile tools to drain and extract acne such as cysts.

Never Give Up!

The bottom line is that acne is a strong adversary. It may make you question your self-confidence. It may hurt. It may fight back when you try to reduce it. Your doctor may even struggle, at first. However, with patience, medical advice, and even a little bit of smoke and mirrors (think concealer) you can win your battle with acne.