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Acne & Pimples: What's Happening Beneath our Skin?

Acne is a skin condition that causes spots and pimples on the face. It can also appear in other areas such as the shoulders, back, neck and chest.

While acne occurs most commonly during puberty, it can also occur at any age, in both males and females. Although acne is not a life-threatening skin condition, it can cause permanent scarring if not taken care of.

Why do we get acne?

Most of us will get our first taste of an acne outbreak during puberty because that's when our hormone production starts to change. Among the changes is an increase in sebaceous glands activity, and that is the number one reason why our skin gets oilier, greasier and more prone to acne.

There may be some lucky few who never had to struggle with acne in their entire lives, but most of us would have experienced at least a mild outbreak during puberty or menstruation. Whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples are the most common forms of acne, but they are easily managed with a good facial wash that helps to unclog pores and keep the skin oil-free. For those with severe acne, there are topical creams (usually containing Retinol or Isoretin) that you can apply on your skin. But, such products do come with undesirable side effects like dryness, itching and a burning sensation.

What Should I Do when I Have an Acne Outbreak?

If you have acne, don't freak out. It is completely normal and you should not let your acne dampen your confidence. What you should do first is to determine the cause of your acne. Knowing the cause of your acne can help in preventing them from becoming worse.

Here are some causes of acne:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Emotional stress
  • Cosmetics
  • Poor or lack of a proper facial cleansing routine
  • Medication
  • Change in environment

 Depending on the cause, there are different measures you can take to control the outbreak.

Hormonal changes

During this time, your androgen levels increase, resulting in your oil glands producing more sebum. This sebum is what makes your face oily, and oily skin is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. What you can do to manage the secretion of sebum is to invest in a good facial cleanser that has oil-controlling properties. You may be tempted to blot your face in the day time, but try to limit the oil-blotting because once your skin recognizes that the surface is dry, it will stimulate more sebum production, ending up with the same oiliness few hours later.

Emotional stress

Stress can also be a major factor in altering your hormone levels. While daily stressors are good for our mind and body, psychological stress - like the one you experience at work - can trigger an acne breakout overnight. To counter this, a mix of regular exercise and meditation should be practiced to keep your emotions in check. A healthy diet can also contribute to healthy skin, so eat plenty of greens and drink lots of water to rehydrate your body.


One of the biggest culprits in causing acne is cosmetics. Ingredients such as lanolin, lauric acid, fragrances, alcohol are all harmful components that are commonly found in cosmetics. Such ingredients can clog the pores or irritate the skin, causing an outbreak. To prevent this, it is essential to remove all traces of makeup before turning in for the night.

Poor or lack of a proper facial cleansing routine

If you think that removing your makeup is enough to keep acne at bay, you are wrong. Regular facial cleansing will ensure that your skin is receiving the nutrients it needs. In a skincare routine, the first step, which happens to be the most important step, is to remove any makeup and impurities. When the skin is bare, that is when you can start your facial cleanse. A basic facial routine starts with cleansing, toning, and lastly moisturizing. Of course, there are some added steps you can take, like a weekly rejuvenating facial scrub or a detoxifying facial mask.


If medication is causing your acne, there is nothing much you can do apart from balancing your skin condition with a proper facial routine. You may wish to speak to your doctor for alternatives to the medication that you are taking.

Change in environment

Your skin can get accustomed to the climate that you are in. If you are travelling across the globe where the temperature is drastically different, the change in the environment may have a significant impact on your skin. Not limiting to acne breakouts, some experience better skin when they travel. This is especially true when you are travelling from a humid country to a cooler country. If your acne breakout is due to a change in environment, what you can do is to get some suitable skincare products that are catered to that environment.