What is Acne: Basic Information Causes and Treatment

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by clogged pores, blackheads, and pimples. The oil glands, or sebaceous glands, are connected to hair follicles and release a substance known as sebum that lubricates hair and skin. Usually, sebum travels up the hair follicle and out onto your skin. But when the sebaceous glands produce too much oil that combines with dead skin cells, the follicles become blocked and inflamed. Acne most often affects the nose, forehead, cheeks, chin, back, and trunk. Between 17 – 45 million people have acne, making it the most common skin disease in the United States. While it tends to last longer in women, men are more likely to get acne and to have more severe cases. Acne is most common in teens, and it generally goes away by age 30. Although it is not a serious health threat, severe acne can be painful and may cause permanent scarring.

What is Acne

Acne at its most basic is a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit, or what is commonly called the hair follicle or pore. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is the most common skin disorder in the United States. Acne vulgaris, as common acne is known, is classified as a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin.

Acne is characterized by the presence of pimples or “zits”, blackheads, and whiteheads. It chiefly affects the face, neck, chest, back, and/or upper arms of sufferers. Rarely you will find acne in other areas of the body. Acne varies in development from very mild to extremely severe.

Acne Types and Definitions

Many different words describe an acne problem.  Therefore, it’s important to note and understand what each word means.  We will start with the most general and get more specific.


Something likened to an inflamed, pus-filled lesion:  a small inflamed elevation of the skin that is filled with pus; a pimple.


Like a papule in that it is white and dome-shaped.  Characterized by inflammation.  Nodular acne is very severe and doesn’t respond well to many forms of therapy.

Comedo (plural Comedones)

When a sebaceous follicle is plugged with dirt, other cells, tiny hairs, or bacteria.  There are two types of comedones.  Blackheads are open comedones because the surface appears black.  Closed comedones appear as a slightly inflamed, skin colored bump and are called Whiteheads.


An abnormal membranous sac containing a liquid or semi-liquid substance consisting of white blood cells, dead cells, and bacteria.  Often very painful and they extend to deeper layers of skin.  Nodulocystic acne is when nodules and cysts appear together.


An infected or diseased patch of skin (can accompany acne, skin cancer, a knife cut, etc.)  When we read about lesions, we recognize that it has to do with an infected sebaceous gland.  Some lesions are more severe than others.


A small, solid, usually inflammatory elevation of the skin that does not contain pus.


A temporary red spot left from a healed lesion. They are generally light red or pink and they can last from anywhere between a day to a few weeks.

Range of Acne

The areas of the body most typically affected by acne are:

Less commonly, acne appears on the torso, arms, and legs.

Acne Causes

Abnormal Shedding of Skin Cells

The epidermis is constantly shedding dead skin cells through a process called desquamation. Dead skin cells fall away from the stratum corneum and are replaced by new cells. In acne prone skin this process goes awry, with four to five times more skin cells being produced than in normal skin.

There are also less Lamellar granules in the skin of acne sufferers. Lamellar granules are found within the cells of the stratum corneum. They are responsible for releasing enzymes that digest the substance that that holds cells together. Simply speaking, acne prone skin produces more dead skin cells than is typical, and the skin cells are not being shed properly. Instead, the cells remain suck inside the follicle creating a comedo.

Proliferation of Bacteria

Propionibacteria acnes (P. acnes) are bacteria routinely found on most skin. In those with acne the P. acnes population grows out of control. The plug of dead cells and oil within the pore creates an anaerobic environment where oxygen can’t get into the pore. P. acnes thrive in this environment and their population grows.

The P. acnes digest the oil trapped within the pore, producing a fatty acid waste. This waste irritates the pore lining, causing redness and inflammation. It is important to recognize that cleansing cannot wash P. acnes away. Its presence does not point to a lack of hygiene in any way.

Overactive Sebaceous Glands

Sebaceous glands create sebum, or oil, needed to lubricate the skin’s surface. Those who are prone to acne have oil glands that produce more sebum than is necessary. Excess oil remains in the pore, blocking the sebaceous duct and creating a blockage within the follicle.

According to information by the International Dermal Institute, the sebum of those who suffer from acne is also different in its makeup. It has higher levels of squalene and wax esters than typical, with lower levels of free fatty acids, and linoleic acid. This composition creates a favorable environment for acne causing bacteria.

Treatment Options

Treatment is aimed at reducing sebum production, helping the skin shed dead cells so they don’t build up, and preventing bacteria from accumulating. You can help by doing the following:

  • Wash skin once or twice a day with a mild cleanser. Washing more often, scrubbing skin, or using facial masks can make acne worse.
  • Try over-the-counter lotions containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
  • People with mild cases of acne may reduce symptoms with herbs, Ayurveda, or homeopathy. You’ll probably have to use medications or complementary and alternative remedies for at least 6 – 8 weeks before seeing a noticeable improvement in symptoms.
  • Use oil-free skin care products and cosmetics. Look for products that say “water-based” or “non-comedogenic.”

Acne Treatment

There are several ways of treating acne at home; the ones that are mentioned below are easily prepared and always available. Why not open the fridge and see what you can find in the vegetable compartment, chances are big, that you will find the ingredients needed for an effective natural remedy for acne.

  • The paste from blended cucumber can be applied on the face and be left for about 30 minutes before rinsing. This serves as good refreshment for the skin, as well as an effective acne prevention cream.
  • Cumin seeds are also an effective treatment for acne. Paste produced from these seeds may be applied on the skin for about one hour before rinsing it off.
  • Paste made from the mixture of vinegar and ground seeds of black cumin can also be applied to the skin to treat acne.
  • Cooked oatmeal can also be applied on the skin for about 15 minutes. Then wash off.
  • Ground bay leaves that are blanched in water and are cooled afterwards can also be applied on the skin with acne.
  • You can blend the following fruit and vegetable: Peeled apple, half serving of cucumber, 1 tablespoon of yogurt and honey. The end-product can be applied on the skin for about 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water. This will reduce acne scars.
  • Paste formed from water and fresh leaves of fenugreek can be applied overnight and rinsed off the next morning with lukewarm water.
  • Egg white can also be an effective acne remedy when applied on the acne for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Paste from the mixture of little water and ground orange peel can be applied on affected skin areas.
  • Fresh garlic can be rubbed on the affected areas. Though this remedy can be pretty smelly, it has a very effective antiseptic property that will dry out acne.
  • Aloe Vera that is taken internally is effective in treating acne. Its juice can also be applied on skin areas that have acne.
  • Paste from the mixture of powdered and roasted pomegranate and fresh lemon juice can be applied over blackheads, pimples, and acne.
  • A warm bath with rosemary and blanch of nettle can also help in the reduction of acne.
  • Paste made from water and powdered Neem leaves can also be applied on the affected skin as an acne treatment.
  • Rose water mixed with sandalwood paste can also be applied on the face for 30 minutes before rinsing it off.

Remedies for acne that can be done at home are really easy to come up with. But to achieve best results, the appropriate supplementation of vitamins and minerals should be done as well.