Enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Understanding acne
Acne is a problem commonly faced by teenagers and young adults – 80% of people between 11 and 30 years old have acne.1 However, it can start at any age.1
Acne causes spots to form on the face, neck, back or chest.1,2 It is usually treatable.2

What causes acne?

Your body removes 30,000 to 40,000 old skin cells every day. Normally, dead skin cells go to the surface of the skin and flake off.2

Acne Formation

  • Sebum is an oily substance produced by the skin to protect it. Excess sebum blocks the hair follicle.4
  • Acne is formed when dead skin cells mix with this blockage and are trapped in the hair follicle.1,4
  • Bacteria can also get trapped inside the blockage, and contribute to inflammation.2
Testosterone is a hormone produced not just by males, but also females. Raised testosterone levels during puberty causes this excess sebum production.1 Hormonal changes during pregnancy, the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive usage can also cause acne.1,2

Some conditions in females can cause or worsen acne, but this is rare. For example, polycystic ovarian syndrome causes excess testosterone production that leads to acne and other symptoms, such as weight gain and excess facial or body hair.1,2

Acne is known to run in families.1 Stress can also worsen acne.4 Heavy sweating due to humid weather or working in hot kitchens can worsen acne, too.4

What are the different forms of acne?

Types of Acne Pimples

Form Description
  • Small, hard bumps with a white centre4
  • Will not empty if not pressed1
  • Small, blocked pores4
  • The black color is due to skin pigment and not dirt1
  • Small, red spots, can be tender/sore1
  • Spots with visible pus4
  • Hard lumps beneath the skin4
  • Can be painful1
  • Large lumps filled with pus beneath the skin1
  • Greatest risk to leave permanent scarring1


  1. NHS Choices. Acne. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Acne/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed 28 September, 2015.
  2. Patient. Acne. Available at: http://patient.info/health/acne-leaflet . Accessed 28th September 2015.
  3. American Academy of Dermatology. How skin grows. Available at: https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/for-kids/about-skin/how-skin-grows . Accessed 28 September, 2015.
  4. NHS Choices. Dealing with acne. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/skin/Pages/Acne.aspx . Accessed 28 September, 2015.