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Acne Vulgaris – Causes, Types And Treatment Options


  • ● Acne vulgaris affects approximately 200-300 million people in India alone.
  • ● It occurs in people between 15 and 40 years of age.
  • ● Its common symptoms include bumps, rashes, boils, pimples, redness, and tenderness.
  • ● Treatments for this condition include antibiotics, creams, cleansers peels and laser therapy.

Acne Vulgaris - Meaning And Medical Definition

Acne vulgaris is a disorder of the pilosebaceous gland. When the sebaceous gland overproduces sebum, the skin’s natural oil, the hair follicles gets clogged. The pileup of dirt and dead skin cells eventually leads to inflammation and redness.

Acne manifests in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules, cysts, and nodules, all generally referred to as pimples. They can appear on various parts of the body such as the face, neck, shoulders, chest, arms, and back. These pimples disrupt the smoothness of skin and often result in inflammation or scars.

Types And Classification Of Acne

Dermatologists classify acne into the following grades based on the type, severity, and extent of distribution –

  • Grade one Includes blackheads, whiteheads, and few papules.
  • Grade two Consists of multiple papules and pustules, aggravated blackheads, and whiteheads.
  • Grade three – Comprises of numerous papules, pustules, and inflamed nodules occasionally.
  • Grade four – Constitutes of multiple large and painful pustules, nodules, large cysts, and abscesses.

Below are some images of different types of acne on face:

whitehead acne on nose
blackheads on nose
papules acne
pustules acne
cystic acne vulgaris
nodular acne vulgaris

Common Causes Of Acne Vulgaris

Internal Causes – The causes behind acne vulgaris that occurs within the body include –

  • Heredity Genetics play a major role in the chances of acne If either of your parents suffers or have suffered from acne, then you may too.
  • Hormones Hormonal imbalances due to conditions like PCOS can trigger sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, leading to acne outbreaks. Certain types of acne are induced by hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, etc.

External Causes – Several environmental and lifestyle factors are responsible for making acne outbreaks even worse by aggravating the skin further. These include –

  • Stress Stress alters the activity of sebaceous glands in the skin, thereby leading to the production of excess sebum.
  • Medications Medications containing androgen, corticosteroids, DHEA, and lithium lead to an acne outbreak as a part of their side-effects.
  • Diet Eating certain foods with a high glycemic index can also lead to an acne
  • Improper use of cosmetic products Skincare and make-up products containing chemicals that block the pores leading to acne. Also, using harsh scrubs and exfoliants may destroy the epidermal layer of the skin, leading to acne.

What is The Pathophysiology of Acne?

Acne breakouts occur due to the interplay of four primary factors that decide the severity and frequency of acne.

  • Excess sebum production leading to acne outbreaks prominently in areas with dense sebaceous glands such as face and neck.
  • Follicular plugging of excess sebum and keratinocytes.
  • Bacterial activity of P. acnes leading to colonization of follicles.
  • Multiple inflammatory mediators released by our body’s defense systems leading to acne lesions and inflammatory reactions.

Signs And Symptoms Of Acne

Some of the common signs and symptoms of acne vulgaris include –

  • Clogged pores with white or transparent lesions
  • Redness and inflammation due to bumps and rashes
  • Pus-filled pimples, tender to the touch
  • Scars and pigmentation
  • Cysts with deep abscesses

How Does A Dermatologist Diagnose Acne?

Acne Vulgaris is diagnosed through the observation of the common signs and symptoms associated with it. A dermatologist thoroughly assesses the causes and then proceeds with the relevant treatment. A primary examination can help determine the underlying causes (e.g. hormones, diet, medications, etc.). After that, the dermatologist will determine the severity and extent of acne (mild, moderate, severe) to help ascertain the right treatment option for you.

Are You At Risk?

In India alone, more than 10 million cases of acne are reported in a year. People with acne vulgaris running in their families, or those susceptible to hormonal imbalances such as PCOS, and those undergoing puberty, pregnancy, and menopause are more prone to acne outbreaks. If you suffer from stress or anxiety and improper lifestyle habits, you put yourself at risk of acne. Seek medical assistance as soon as you experience an acne outbreak to avoid unwanted scarring or pigmentation in the future.

Prevention And Management

  • Make sure you wash your face twice a day thoroughly with a mild cleanser, especially after a sweaty workout.
  • Avoid using makeup or skin care products with harsh chemicals. Look for labels such as non-comedogenic and oil-free on these products.
  • Never pop, squeeze or pick at zits or pimples as this may worsen the inflammation and lead to scarring.
  • Always protect your face with a sunblock cream before going out in the sun, even on rainy days.
  • Make sure to maintain cleanliness and change your pillowcases every week.
  • Stay hydrated as it will help flush out toxins from your body and minimize acne outbreaks.

Does Self-care Help?

Self-care may provide temporary relief, but it may not prove effective in the long run especially in cases of moderate to severe acne, which leads to scarring.

Acne Vulgaris Treatments

Here are the recommended treatments for mild to severe outbreaks of acne vulgaris:

Medical Treatments

  • Topical retinoids
  • Topical antibiotics
  • Oral medication

Acne Removal Procedures

  • Intralesional injections
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Chemical Peels
  • Laser treatments

Check out the video here to get an insight into the advanced acne treatments available at Oliva Skin & Hair Clinic.


Usually, teenage acne clears up on its own by the mid-20s. Adult acne, found in women up to age 40, needs proper evaluation and treatment. Most adults usually develop mild to moderate acne lesions, requiring immediate treatment before they get more severe. Acne in its various stages can eventually lead to scarring if it goes unaddressed during its early onset.

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