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Acne: Unmasking the Causes and Effective Treatment Options

By Dr. Kashish Kalra in Dermatology

Aug 17 , 2023 | 2 min read


Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide, irrespective of age, gender, or ethnicity. While often considered a superficial issue, acne's roots delve deeper into the complexities of our skin's physiology and hormonal balance.

Understanding Acne:

Acne primarily occurs due to the interaction between several factors, including excess sebum (oil) production, clogged hair follicles, bacterial colonisation, and inflammation. The skin's hair follicles and sebaceous glands play a pivotal role in acne development. Sebum, an oily substance produced by these glands, normally helps lubricate the skin and hair. However, when excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria, it can clog the follicles, leading to the formation of various acne lesions.

Causes of Acne:

  1. Hormonal Fluctuations: Androgens, a group of hormones that includes testosterone, play a significant role in acne development. During puberty, these hormones stimulate the sebaceous glands to enlarge and produce more sebum. Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also contribute to acne.
  2. Genetics: Genetic predisposition can influence an individual's likelihood of developing acne.
  3. Diet: While the direct link between diet and acne is still being studied, some research suggests that high glycemic index foods (such as sugary and processed foods) and dairy products may exacerbate acne.
  4. Environmental Factors: Exposure to pollutants, humidity, and certain cosmetics can contribute to acne flare-ups by clogging pores and promoting inflammation.
  5. Stress: Chronic stress can trigger hormonal fluctuations that may exacerbate acne. Stress-induced inflammation can also worsen existing lesions.

Effective Treatment Options:

Treating acne involves a comprehensive approach targeting multiple factors.

  1. Topical Treatments: a. Retinoids: Derived from vitamin A, retinoids help unclog pores and reduce inflammation. They promote cell turnover, preventing the formation of new acne lesions. b. Benzoyl Peroxide: This antimicrobial agent kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation. It's available over-the-counter and in prescription strengths. c. Salicylic Acid: An exfoliating agent that helps unclog pores and reduce inflammation.
  2. Oral Medications: a. Antibiotics: Oral antibiotics can effectively control bacterial growth and inflammation. They are often used in combination with topical treatments. b. Hormonal Therapy: For women with hormonal acne, oral contraceptives or anti-androgen medications can help regulate hormone levels. c. Isotretinoin: Reserved for severe cases, this powerful medication targets all aspects of acne development, often providing long-lasting results.
  3. Procedures: a. Chemical Peels: These exfoliating treatments help improve skin texture and unclog pores. b. Laser and Light Therapies: Certain light-based therapies target bacteria and inflammation, reducing acne lesions. c. Extraction: Dermatologists can safely extract comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) using specialised tools.
  4. Lifestyle and Skincare: a. Gentle Cleansing: Regular cleansing with a mild cleanser helps remove excess oil and debris from the skin. b. Non-comedogenic Products: Choose skincare and makeup products labelled as non-comedogenic to prevent pore clogging. c. Sun Protection: Using broad-spectrum sunscreen helps prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Acne, though common, is a complex skin condition influenced by various factors, including hormones, genetics, and lifestyle. Understanding its underlying causes is crucial for developing effective treatment strategies. Whether through topical treatments, oral medications, procedures, or lifestyle adjustments, individuals can manage and alleviate acne's impact on their skin and overall well-being.

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