Table of Contents

What is Acne?

Acne is a skin problem that causes spots to appear on several parts of the body, such as your face, neck, back, and chest.

Anyone can experience acne regardless of age, but in general, acne usually develops from puberty or within the age range of 10-13 years old. In some cases, acne can also appear in babies and children. 

Causes of Acne 

Acne can be caused by several conditions, such as: 

  • Excess sebum production. Sebum is a substance produced by the oil glands to prevent dry skin. Acne generally occurs in people with oily skin, but it does not rule out people with dry skin. Dry skin conditions cause the skin to produce sebum to keep the skin moisturised. This can lead to acne breakouts.
  • Clogged hair follicles or pores. Clogged pores apart from sebum can also be caused by dead skin cells that are not removed. Naturally, the skin regenerates and leaves dead skin cells behind after a certain time.
  • Hormone. Hormonal activity can cause acne, particularly androgen hormones. This is what induces the menstruation period–usually when acne starts to appear. 
  • Bacteria. The bacteria-causing acne is propionibacterium acnes which can clog hair follicles and even cause inflammation.
  • Cosmetic use. Cosmetics contain lots of chemicals that are not suitable for all skin types, which can cause acne. Apart from the skin type’s incompatibility, acne often appears as a result of unhygienic cosmetics, thus clogging the pores.
  • Friction or pressure on your skin. Acne can appear on your face if you wear headwear, appear on the necks of those who often wear clothes that tend to be tight around the neck and appear on their backs if they often use a backpack.

If the hair follicles become clogged, it can lead to the appearance of whiteheads or blackheads. When blackheads start to appear, it is time to pay more attention to your skin, as if left untreated, they can develop into other skin problems.

When to See a Doctor for Acne

Your doctor can help identify the type of acne that appears on your skin and determine the right treatment.

Several types of acne are: 

Acne papules

Papules are a type of pimple that appears under the surface of the skin, looks prominent and feels solid and painful to touch. Papules are not considered serious acne and do not contain pus even though they look red. 

Acne papules occur due to clogged and inflamed hair follicles. Treatment for acne papules can start by cleansing your face regularly to reduce oil production, using the right facial cleanser products, avoiding the habit of squeezing pimples, choosing cosmetic products that do not clog pores (non-comedogenic) and keeping your hair clean, particularly hair around the face area.

Pustular acne

Pustular acne is a type of acne that grows on the surface of the skin and contains pus. This type of acne generally has white and red texture in the area around the acne and is painful when touched. 

Pustular acne requires more serious treatment compared to papular acne. Treatments may include medication, antibiotic therapy, and photodynamic therapy for severe cases of pustular acne.

Nodular acne

Nodular acne is a type of acne that grows on your skin. The texture of this acne is hard and causes pain. Nodular acne is generally large-sized and does not have whiteheads filled with pus.

Nodular acne has a tendency to last for weeks, even months. The causes are diverse and resemble those of acne in general. However, the main trigger for this type of acne is the hormone androgen, a hormone that affects the production of oil in the skin.

This acne is considered a severe form of acne, considering that it indicates inflammation that can penetrate deeper into the skin layers.

Cystic acne

Cystic acne is when you have large, hard, red, painful and itchy breakouts. This type of acne is caused by oil buildup and dead skin cells in the deepest skin tissue.

If left untreated, cystic acne can spread to the surrounding skin tissue, which is caused by the rupture of the pores due to inflammation of the skin tissue.


Milia is a type of acne that looks like whiteheads. Milia usually grows on the nose, cheeks, and under the eyes. Milia often occurs in newborns.

Milia is generally painless and not considered a serious type of acne. In some cases, milia can go away on its own.

Symptoms of Acne

Before the appearance of acne, you may develop comedonal acne or comedones. This is a sign that the hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and sebum on your face. There are two types of comedonal acne, whiteheads and blackheads.

Whiteheads are under the surface of your skin while blackheads grow on the surface of the skin and its exposure to the air causes the black or dark forms. 

Treatment for Acne

It may take a long time to treat acne–even months, depending on the acne’s severity. The following are some ways you can treat acne:


There are several types of medications that can be used to treat acne and can be purchased freely without your doctor’s prescription, such as benzoyl peroxide and topical retinoids.

It is necessary to pay attention to the recommended dosage of both medications–as excessive use may trigger irritation and increase your skin’s sun sensitivity, particularly topical retinoids should be applied only at night.

Benzoyl peroxide functions to kill bacteria on the skin’s surface while topical retinoids — which are vitamin A derivatives–function to remove dead skin cells. You can apply either of them for, at least, 6 consecutive weeks. Retinoids are quite effective in treating hormone-induced acne and are often found in skin care products.

Skincare products that contain acids such as glycolic acid are also effective acne treatments. These acids help destroy the top layer of dead skin cells and prevent blemishes if applied regularly

Medications containing topical antibiotics can also be used to treat acne. Topical antibiotics serve to kill off bacteria that cause clogged hair follicles.

As with any antibiotics, this medication can only be applied for 6-8 weeks and should be stopped thereafter. This is done to prevent antibiotics resistance. 

Azelaic acid can also be used if you deal with skin irritation by using topical benzoyl peroxide or retinoids, particularly on sensitive skin. However, azelaic acid has some side effects, such as dry skin, itching, redness, and burning.


There are several other ways to treat acne, including: 

  • Blackheads extraction. Your doctor will gently remove whiteheads and blackheads (comedones) that have not cleared up with acne medications. This technique may also cause scarring.
  • Hormone therapy. In general, hormone therapy involves a combination of oral contraceptives or pills. These pills can reduce the production of sebum and androgen hormones. This type of therapy is suitable for those who also have hormonal disorders such as PCOS.
  • Chemical peeling. This skincare procedure exfoliates acne to trigger the growth of a new layer of skin. The chemical peeling process involves several chemicals such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or retinoic acid.
  • Laser therapy. This procedure treats acne by killing the acne-causing bacteria and reducing the production of oil in the skin, which is done by pointing a laser to the affected area.
  • Corticosteroid injections. This therapy is a relatively quick acne treatment and done by injecting corticosteroids directly into the acne. 

Treatment Cost for Acne

Treatment cost for acne may vary depending on the type, the severity, and the medical procedure recommended to treat the acne. For more details regarding the estimated cost of acne treatment, hospital recommendations, or making appointments with doctors at home and abroad contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Acne

Acne appearance is normal and affecting many men and women. Some causes of acne tend to be difficult to avoid, such as oily skin types or hormonal changes.

However, there are several ways you can do to prevent acne, such as: 

  • Cleanse your face and shower twice a day
  • Avoid cosmetic products that contain oil (oil-based)
  • Always remove cosmetics clean before going to bed
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid foods that can trigger acne, such as milk

Home Remedies for Acne

You can treat mild acnes at home by following these steps: 

  • Taking a shower twice a day–especially after spending most of your day outside from all the sweat, dust, and oil.
  • Using a special facial cleanser.  It is not recommended to wash your face too often as it can damage the outermost layer of your face (skin barrier)
  • Be selective in choosing products. Prioritize choosing water-based cosmetics or skin care products over oil-based products to prevent oil build up and block skin pores.
  • Avoid touching your face with dirty hands. Make sure to always wash your hands first.  Your hands can be a means of transferring bacteria. 

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