Acne: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

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Almost everyone gets acne from time to time, particularly during the teenage years. Fluctuating hormones and other factors lead to clogged pores and red pimples or blackheads all across the face. Acne scars can be especially frustrating after breakout.

Yet even though everyone gets acne, lots of people don’t fully understand it or know how to reduce the symptoms of this common skin condition without running to a local pharmacy for a prescription or medications. Although, it is always a good idea to visit your dermatologist for acne treatment.

Let’s take a closer look at acne and examine some homemade and natural remedies you can apply starting today.

What is Acne?

At its core, acne is a minor skin condition that occurs when hair follicles or pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and other debris. When this happens, small pimples or pustules can build up with pus or oil, leading to inflamed tissue.

Acne is unsightly and irritating to deal with, but it’s incredibly common throughout the world.

Types of Acne

There are several different types of acne. These can vary dramatically in terms of severity and sensitivity. 

Acne types include:

  • Blackheads, a kind of noninflammatory acne that occurs due to clogged pores. The top of blackhead pores stay open, leading to their characteristic black color.
  • Whiteheads, which are similar to blackheads but feature a closed top of the pore. These acne manifestations seem to protrude from the surface of the skin.
  • Pimples are a kind of inflammatory acne due to their red and swollen appearance. Most people get pimples when germs cause minor infections below the skin’s surface.
  • Papules can arise when walls between pores break down due to inflammation, resulting in larger, harder, clogged pores that are very tender to the touch.
  • Pustules are similar to papules but are filled with pus, resulting in bumps that rise off the surface of the skin.
  • Nodules, which occur when swollen pores become further irritated and become larger. These are usually deeper beneath the skin than pustules.
  • Cysts, which are the most severe type of acne. These develop when pores are clogged by bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum, and usually result as severe infections develop.

Acne Symptoms

Regardless of the exact type of acne you might experience, you’ll feel a few shared symptoms.

All acne is unsightly, leading to imperfect skin and blemishes across its surface. Acne other than blackheads typically cause sensitivity or inflammation to the affected area. Pimples or other types of acne with pus may eventually break, spilling the pus over nearby clogged pore.

If left unchecked, acne can also lead to excessive skin oiliness.

Causes of Acne

Most types of acne are caused by pores or hair follicles becoming clogged over time. But pores or hair follicles can be clogged by different things, including:

  • Dead skin cells, which can build up if you don’t exfoliate facial skin or wash your skin well enough.
  • Sebum – a natural moisturizing oil produced by your skin. Sometimes the skin produces too much sebum, leading to clogged pores.
  • Bacteria, which can accrue over time if you don’t wash your skin thoroughly.
  • Dirt and debris from the environment. People who live in dusty areas can experience incessant acne just from dust clogging their pores all the time.
  • Lots of acne starts in the “second brain” or your gut! Bad gut health through a poor diet can lead to insulin resistance, oily skin, or even other hormonal imbalances, all of which make acne more likely.
  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy

Once pores become clogged, it’s easy for bacteria and pus to build up underneath the blockage. Swelling and inflammation usually follow.

Hormonal changes can also lead to acne formation. Sebum production is closely linked to both hormone levels and insulin levels in the blood. Unbalanced levels of either compound can cause excessive sebum production, leading to oily skin and acne outbreaks.

Remedies for Acne

Acne comes in all shapes and sizes, but there’s a remedy for every type of acne. If you don’t have cystic acne or severe acne (and therefore need to see a doctor), you can try these natural remedies to tackle your acne effectively without introducing potential toxins to your skin.


One easy thing to do is drink more water. Hydration is crucial to maintain adequate skin moisturization levels and the health of your skin barrier. If your skin becomes dry, it becomes more irritated and your skin may produce extra sebum to concentrate. All of that can lead to acne outbreaks.

Dietary Changes

It’s also a good idea to take a hard look at your diet. Try to get rid of processed foods and sugars, processed dairy products, and potentially toxic meat. Go for pasture-raised, free-range, organic and grass-fed  meat whenever possible.

If you eat a healthy diet, your blood sugar and insulin levels will be more likely to be balanced, lowering the likelihood of insulin-related acne outbreaks.


If your acne becomes severe, your doctor may prescribe medication.. Some are available over the counter, and others require prescription after visiting your dermatologist if they deem a prescription necessary. 

Some examples would be benzoyl peroxide, isotretinoin cream (contains vitamin-a), spironolactone, erythromycin, tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, tazarotene cream, and tretinoin. Side effects may occur from taking perceptions and medications for acne. Birth control pills are also an option but can be hormonally disruptive

Talk to your doctor to see what the best option would be for your acne needs.

Avoid Toxic Chemicals

One more thing – avoid treating acne with toxic chemicals. Applying toxic chemicals to your skin can lead to inflammation and irritation over time, as well as packing synthetic additives into your pores. It’s bad for skin health overall, but especially so if you are trying to tackle acne issues. 

You should similarly avoid skincare products that include parabens – which are unnecessary preservatives – perfumes, which do nothing to reduce acne, and any non-plant-derived alcohol, which can dry out the skin and lead to more irritation/dead skin cells. Be sure to double check the ingredients of skin care products before using. 

If you tend to have oily skin it could mean that you are dehydrated. Add in a hydrating serum or moisturizer to balance the skin. . For those who have dry skin, products that add moisture and hydration will help to balance the skin. . A natural mild soap can also help people with various skin types that have acne and are looking for something gentler to use on their skin.


In the end, acne may be difficult to avoid completely. But with the strategies above, and healthy natural options from Dr. Livingood, you’ll be able to tackle any acne outbreaks as they arise. 


Acne – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Acne – Symptoms and Causes | Penn Medicine 

How to treat different types of acne | AAD 

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