What Can Be Done About my ACNE?

Some facts about prevention and treatment:

Several factors are thought to contribute to acne, especially during the teen/young adult years. In this span of development, our bodies produce more hormones called androgens which cause our oil glands to increase in size as well as produce more oil. The oil can thicken and clog skin pores. This can cause cellular walls in the pores to break down and be susceptible to bacterial growth. Simply, each lesion is a mini-infection.

Another contributor to acne is cosmetics, which can also lead to clogged skin pores, especially if the cosmetic is greasy.

Food choices that are high in sugar or carbohydrates cause your body to create more insulin, which increases oil production in your skin. Thus, decreasing your sugar and carb intake can reduce break outs. While eating greasy foods is not thought to increase skin oil production, working in a food environment such as a kitchen with a frying surface or deep fryer can lead to oil build up on your face. Be sure to wash your skin regularly if you work in a setting such as this.

Finally, genetics plays a role. If your parents had acne, the chances are higher that you will, too.


  • Pimple: hair follicle wall breaks down and lets oil and bacteria into your tissue resulting in redness, swelling, and pus
  • Whitehead: pore clogged with oil that is not on skin surface
  • Blackhead: follicle opening plugged up with bacteria and dead cells (not dirt)
  • Nodule: deep within skin, large solid lesion filled with oils and bacteria, often painful
  • Cyst: deep, painful lesion filled with pus, can cause scarring

Besides the dietary and cosmetic recommendations mentioned above, it is important to do the following:

  • Keep your skin and hair clean. Use a mild cleanser twice per day, and avoid scrubbing, which can worsen the condition.
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands. This can transfer dirt and bacteria to your skin.
  • Avoid squeezing or popping your blemishes. This may lead to scarring or spreading the bacteria further, worsening the condition.
  • Males who shave need to be careful not to nick their blemishes

There are also many topical over the counter treatments available. The commonly used ones come in gels, lotions, creams, soaps, or pads, and contain benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, sulfur, azelaic acid, or Retin-A. The chart states the function of these:

Acne Treatments
Product Main Action
Benzoyl Peroxide Useful in killing bacteria and decreasing oil production
Salicylic Acid,
Aids in breakdown of blackheads and whiteheads

Salicylic acid decreases inflammation and swelling

Azelaic Acid Reduces bacterial growth, prevents oil eruptions by strengthening follicular cells
Retin-A Helps unplug clogged pores by loosening cells on the skin surface

As with any over the counter treatment, monitor your skin’s reaction to products and if the condition worsens, discontinue use and/or seek medical advice.

In more serious cases of acne, cases that don’t respond to over the counter treatment or where nodules/cysts are present, there are prescription medications available that are oral and/or topical. A dermatologist can advise the appropriate choices for each individual case.

WebMD Teen Acne: Is Food to Blame?

Brown University Acne