ACNE: Banish the blemish

Acne, or pimples, can be best managed with early intervention, good skin care, and healthy diet.

AcneAcne [pimples] is a common surface “hitch” among the youth.

An overt problem that primarily affects the face, acne is not just a cosmetic aberration. It can be the cause of teenage emotional stress and psychological distress.

Acne usually appears in early adolescence, around age 12-13, in girls, and at age 14-15 in boys, corresponding with the age of onset of puberty.

It reaches its peak by age 17-18 in females; and, 19-21 in males. Although girls develop acne at a much younger age than boys, severe acne is 10 times more common in boys.

While eight out of 10 adolescents suffer from acne, there has been an increase in the incidence of acne among adults too, in recent years. For those who have a family history of acne, it tends to be more severe and long-lasting.

With changing food habits, lifestyle and unscientific use of cosmetics, the incidence of acne seems to be only growing.

Oil glands to blame

Acne is a disease of the sebaceous, or oil, glands that are present in large numbers over the face, back, and chest. Many factors contribute to the development of acne.

Androgen, the male sex hormone, may “fuel” the sebaceous glands to secrete more oil. Alternately, any condition that amplifies the blood levels of androgen can increase acne. This is the reason why acne is more severe in boys.

Recent studies suggest that a diet rich in carbohydrates – refined cereals, sugars, sweets, sugary fruits, and soft drinks – as well as milk and milk products can promote acne by increasing the androgen levels. Apart from high carbohydrates, a diet rich in Omega-6 fatty acids [such as refined vegetable oils] and poor in Omega-3 fatty acids [fish oils] can promote inflammation and precipitate acne.

Abnormal shedding of the cells lining the oil glands may also lead to partial, or complete, blockage of the gland, resulting in accumulation of the sebum [oil] within it. In addition, proliferation of the bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, within “blocked” glands, can cause inflammation – a typical feature of acne.

Initially, acne manifests as black heads and white heads. The clogged oil glands soon evolve into red, raised, pus-filled lesions and, sometimes, as cysts. Boys tend to have severe acne with the involvement of the back and chest. Girls primarily tend to develop acne over the face, but with excessive levels of androgens, acne may present itself over the back and chest just as well.

Certain factors have also been known to aggravate acne: stress, oily cosmetics, some medications, working in a humid environment etc.


Though acne is a self-limiting condition in a majority of individuals, treatment is essential to prevent and minimise cosmetic disfigurement, associated with scarring and pigmentation.

  • Treatment should preferably be taken in consultation with a dermatologist [skin specialist]. This includes topical and oral medications
  • Commonly used topical medications are anti-bacterials, medicines to dissolve black and white heads, and anti-inflammatory creams
  • Oral medications include antibiotics, retinoids [derivatives of vitamin A] and anti-androgens
  • Physical measures, such as expression of black and white heads, chemical peeling, cryotherapy [application of extreme cold], and laser therapy have also shown good results when performed by a dermatologist.

It may be mentioned that popular household remedies, like turmeric and sandalwood paste, can cause extreme dryness of the face, in sensitive individuals. This can sometimes lead to black and white heads. Similarly, the use of abrasive cleansers and vigorous massage of the face can also precipitate black and white heads. It is best to avoid them. Also –

  • In the presence of black and white heads, and pimples, one should be very gentle with the skin
  • Mild cleansers should be used, and the face should not be washed more than 3-4 times a day
  • A diet rich in vitamin A, omega-3 fats, like fish oils, walnuts etc., prevents the blockade of the oil glands and, thus, the formation of black and white heads, an early sign of pimples.

Make up tips for acne

If you can feel the acne coming, cover it with a lightweight concealer cream or liquid foundation. Dab the cream on the area, blend with finger.

If the blemish is small, you could cover the blemish with a dab of liquid foundation using a small concealer brush. Brush lightly with translucent powder to hold.

It’s difficult to cover an inflamed blemish, so you need a concealer that stays put. Try a conclealer that has a thick consistency and is packed with pigment. Always start with the smallest amounts of concealer, and then build. Dab the concealer to the blemish with a small concealer brush or Q-tip; then gently cover.

Dr Balasaraswathy Panambur, MBBS, DVD, DNB, is a Mangalore-based consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist.


  1. you only have to wash about twice a day..too much washing can cause dryness and irritation and lead to more acne breakouts and scarring.


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