Acne: causes and treatment

Acne is a skin condition that usually appears during puberty – but it can also affect adults. After all, acne has various causes. Find out here what different types there are and what you can do about acne.

03.08.2023 Nina Merli 5 minutes

What causes acne?

Common acne, referred to as acne vulgaris, is an inflammatory skin disease. Typical acne symptoms include blemishes such as spots, blackheads and pustules. The main cause is excess production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. The skin on the face, which is rich in sebaceous glands, is most affected – on the forehead and chin, but often also on the neck, chest or back. Acne can also be caused by an imbalance in the skin’s barrier: skin cannot retain moisture properly and dries out, as does the sebum in the sebaceous gland. This results in a blackhead or an inflamed pimple.

Acne – just a teenage problem?

While acne often flares up in puberty, the skin condition can occur at any age. Even babies can be affected by something referred to as newborn acne. Sometimes it can even occur in pregnancy. And sometimes acne can appear during the menopause – it’s not unusual to see acne pop up at the age of 40 or 50. Breakouts can have a number of causes.

Acne: causes

There are various reasons for acne outbreaks. During puberty, it is mainly due to the production of male sex hormones, androgens – girls are also affected. Stress and dietary imbalance (too much fat and sugar) are also cited as causes of acne. The main causes of acne at a glance:

Hormonal acne

Hormonal fluctuations after puberty might be another reason for acne - for instance, during pregnancy, ovulation, the menopause or when taking the contraceptive pill. Hormonal acne appears primarily on the lower part of the face, on the neck, neckline and on the back.

Are you suffering from hormonal fluctuations, especially prior to menstruation? Learn more about premenstrual syndrome and how you can alleviate the symptoms.

PMS: when hormones go haywire

Stress-induced acne

Adults often suffer from stress-induced acne. What causes stress acne? Stress can have many causes and reactions, and chronic stress can lead to metabolic disorders. Stress also causes us to release more of the hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which in turn leads to increased sebum production, causing spots to appear. Regular relaxation can help prevent stress-induced acne.

The best relaxation methods

Diet and acne

If you are prone to acne, you should pay attention to your diet, because certain foods can encourage acne. Opt for an anti-inflammatory diet. This might include linseed oil, omega-3-containing fish such as salmon or herring, and spices such as turmeric and oregano. Sugar, dairy and white-flour products, fast food, coffee and alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation.

What types of acne are there?

There are various types of acne. Medically, they differ by cause, age and severity. The most common types of acne include:

Acne vulgaris

Acne vulgaris mainly affects adolescents. It is the common acne that can be identified by the presence of blackheads, pustules and redness. It occurs mainly on the face, back or neckline.

Acne tarda

If acne vulgaris occurs in adulthood, it is called late-onset acne. Often, acne tarda occurs in connection with the hormonal changes of menopause.

Acne inversa

This is a chronic skin disease characterised by inflamed areas of skin. In this form of acne, hair follicles become inflamed, and lumps, abscesses, fistulas and scarring appear. Acne inversa occurs mainly in the genital area, in the armpits or on the buttocks.

Fungal acne

This isn’t actually acne, but a fungal infection where numerous small spots form under the skin. It’s the result of an overgrowth of yeast, which every person carries on their skin. This can lead to fungal acne, which causes small pimples on the face and can cause an imbalance in the skin’s natural flora.

Cystic acne

Cystic acne or acne conglobata is a very severe form of common acne and is hormonal. In this case, cysts form under the skin. These cause pain and usually leave severe scars.

Majorca acne

Strictly speaking, Majorca acne is not acne – but a reaction of the skin to excessive sun exposure. Typical for Majorca acne are itchy small pimples all over the body. Would you like to learn more about Majorca acne and other forms of sun allergy?

Recognising and treating sun allergies

Can you squeeze acne spots?

It’s hard to resist the urge to squeeze a spot. But experts always advise against touching them because the spot can become inflamed. But if you want to squeeze spots, you should have this procedure performed by a specialist.

What helps with acne?

There are different approaches for treating acne effectively. These primarily involve reducing the production of sebum – with oral and topical treatments. The be-all and end-all is skin care. There are a lot of scrubs, lotions and gels on the market for this. Not all of them are gentle on the skin. Be sure to seek advice from a specialist as to which suitable acne creams and ointments relieve acne without drying out the skin.

For severe acne, seeking the support of a cosmetologist or dermatologist is advisable. And under certain circumstances, drug treatment is indicated.

balanced diet can help counter the skin condition: eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and opt for wholegrain products; avoid ready-made products, cow’s milk, alcohol, pork, white-flour products and sugar as much as possible.

Are there medications for treating acne?

Yes, very severe acne can also be treated with special acne medications, topically in the form of gels, creams and lotions. These have an antibacterial effect or repel the uppermost layers of the skin and free the sebaceous glands. Most of the medications require a prescription.

For moderate or severe acne, acne tablets can be used as a supplement. Among the most effective acne tablets are retinoid tablets (vitamin A) and hormonal preparations. This also includes the birth control pill, which is, however, intended for use as contraception. Women who use the pill anyway can choose a birth control pill that contains oestrogen and progestin – this usually improves the appearance of the skin.

Acne tablets can lead to side effects such as headaches, nausea and mood swings. They should only be taken after consultation with a doctor – which is why these drugs require a prescription.

Can you use laser treatment for acne?

No, acne itself is not suitable for laser treatment or microneedling. However, unsightly acne scars can be lasered away. Tip: there are handy ultrasonic devices for deep cleaning, such as those used in cosmetic studios.

Do home remedies help with acne?

Certain home remedies are suitable for treating acne naturally or at least relieving redness and inflamed spots:

  • If you suffer from hormonal acne, regular use of Monk’s Pepper can relieve the acne.
  • Apple cider vinegar (diluted with water) is often touted as a home remedy for acne. However, dermatologists advise against it – especially in the case of severely inflamed spots, because the vinegar could cause additional skin irritation. One remedy that is recommended, however, is black tea: infuse a few tea bags, let them cool and place them on the skin for about ten minutes.
  • Coconut oil can also help soothe inflamed spots thanks to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
  • Tea tree oil works just as well against spots, but never use it undiluted. It is best to mix it with a little olive oil or almond oil and then apply it to the spots with a cotton swab.
  • Some essential oils can have a positive effect on acne. Such as lavender.

Akne ist bei Jugendlichen in der Pubertät weit verbreitet. Andere Formen dieser Hauterkrankung können jedoch in fast jedem Alter vorkommen. Da es sich um eine entzündliche Hauterkrankung handelt, ist es wichtig, die von Akne geplagte Haut nicht zusätzlich zu reizen, sondern zu entspannen: mit der passenden Hautpflege, einer ausgewogenen Ernährung und effektiven Hausmitteln.

Experimentieren Sie deshalb nicht zu lange allein herum – lassen ich sich in der Apotheke beraten oder besprechen Sie Ihr Anliegen mit Ihrer Hausärztin oder Ihrem Frauenarzt.

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