ACNE Causes & Treatment Options

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What Are The Signs and Symptoms Of Acne?

One of the most common skin conditions around, acne occurs when dead cells and oil plug your hair follicles, causing pimples (or zits), blackheads, or whiteheads. While facial acne is particularly common—85% of people will experience it at least once in their lifetime, especially teenagers —there are other types such as back acne, shoulder acne, fungal acne, and chest acne, among others. Though you may be wondering how to get rid of chest acne and the other less-known ones, there are effective ways to treat this condition. 


It’s important to decipher the signs and symptoms of acne before visiting a dermatologist and deciding what treatment method you should take. Acne can be persistent and requires consistent treatment to address it. 


What Causes Acne to Appear?


There are several root causes of acne, causes that are tied to how the sebaceous glands in your body react. In addition to the hair follicles being clogged and excess oil being produced, acne can also result from excess bacteria as well as inflammation. Also called cystic acne due to the bumps resembling cysts, acne can be triggered by the follicle wall bulging, leading to the production of a whitehead. 


Alternatively, your pores may be congested with bacteria and oil which turns brown when exposed to air, producing a blackhead. Any blockages and inflammation within the hair follicle will produce cystic lumps beneath your skin’s surface. If bacteria is trapped within the plug, your immune system may react negatively to it 


Things such as greasy food and cosmetics have been linked to acne for the longest time. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest these things have any effect. Also, be careful with how you clean your face when you have acne as things like scrubbing the face too hard when washing it can worsen the condition.  


What Are the Symptoms of Acne?

The signs and symptoms of acne somewhat vary depending on the type of acne you’re dealing with, but there are commonalities. You likely have acne if you find noticeable skin changes such as cysts, crusting of skin bumps as well as small red bumps. These red bumps come in two forms: 

  • Papules - Small red bumps 

  • Pustules - Small red bumps with yellow or white pus (pimples) 


You may also notice redness around the skin eruptions that take place due to the blockages in addition to any scarring of the skin. In many cases, the symptoms occur due to hormonal changes within the body. Teenagers will experience androgen growth as they hit puberty. These androgens cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. In women, changes during midlife can lead to the skin breaking out. 


Diet changes can also lead to the exaggeration of acne symptoms. While chocolate and greasy food have been scientifically ruled out, food that contains lots of carbohydrates such as bread, chips, and bagels may worsen acne. Improved dietary routines can help, though to what extent depends on further research being conducted and evaluated. 


Meanwhile, stress is another factor that can exacerbate acne. It doesn’t cause acne, but it can lead to inflammation of the skin or the acne becoming more persistent. 

Are There Any Risk Factors?

Several risk factors can make acne more difficult to get rid of. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Family history - Acne can be a genetic condition. Should your parents have dealt with acne at any point in their lives, you may get it too 

  • Oily substances - If your skin comes in contact with oily substances such as creams and lotions, that can cause acne to develop 

  • Pressure on the skin - Pressure or radiation from certain items may also put you at risk of getting acne. This includes friction from telephones/cell phones, helmets, and tight collars.


It’s also common and notable that people with darker skin are more likely to suffer acne complications than people with a lighter complexion. These complications include pitted skin (acne scars) as well as thicker scans known as keloids—both of which can remain long-term. Alternatively, the affected skin might become darker or lighter than before the condition occurred. 

When Should You See a Doctor?

There are several self-remedies that you can try to ease the issue before a doctor’s visit is necessary. One thing you can do is to clean your skin gently with a non-drying soap that comes in various brands like Neutrogena, Cetaphil, Dove, and others. 


You can also use water-based formulas for skin and cosmetic creams, products that don’t clog pores and aren’t too oily for the skin. You should wash all dirt or makeup off once or twice a day, including after exercise or any other rigorous activity.  Avoid scrubbing or washing too often, however, as that will agitate the skin and make the acne harder to clear. 


If self-care remedies don’t work and the condition is severe, then you should seek professional medical attention at your earliest convenience. A dermatologist or pediatric dermatologist is your best option as he or she is a skin specialist who can assess the depth of the condition and prescribe appropriate medicine or treatments to rid of the issue. 


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does warn that non-prescribed acne lotions and cleaners can cause bad reactions, though such reactions are rare. They can contain sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, adapalene, or other chemicals to kill bacteria and dry up skin oil. However, they should be used sparingly as some of these products are quite harsh. Some skin products can cause difficulty breathing, eye swelling, and throat tightness. 


A dermatologist is conditioned to work with acne and consider elements such as family and medical history. In older people, acne may persist due to an underlying medical condition. In women, it can persist for a long time, flaring up right before menstruation. The sooner you can get treatment for it and understand why it persists, the easier it will be to manage. 

Certified and well-trained professional dermatologists such as Samantha Busgith, FNP can help you alleviate your acne problem and help your skin look clear again. You can direct all your concerns to him, including asking questions like “what is fungal acne,” and finding out how long acne persists, among other important queries. Book your appointment with NSS Dermatology today and get the skincare you deserve to become a better you.


Frequently Asked Questions: 

Question: How To Get Rid of Chest Acne?

You can clear your chest acne with a treatment regimen that is created specifically for you. It is important to identify the underlying cause of your acne. Acne can be triggered by multiple factors including hormones, stress, overproduction of oils in your skin. Certain products such as creams and lotions can also clog the pores. 

Steroids can also cause acne, which is known as steroid-induced acne. Corticosteroids and testosterone can interfere with hormone regulation and cause acne or cause acne to flare.

Dehydration can also lead to acne breakout; therefore it is important to drink a lot of water. High sugar foods and drinks can lead to chest acne. Excessive sweating can also lead to acne on the chest and back.  


The first step that can be done at home is to use an antibacterial soap to shower after getting dirty or after sweating. Over-the-counter products can include a benzoyl peroxide-containing wash. Be sure to use non-comedogenic creams or lotions. 


If your chest acne persists, or you are unable to identify the source, you should reach out to a dermatology specialist who can help you figure out the cause of your acne and help create an acne regimen suited for you. 

Question: What Is Fungal Acne? 

Fungal acne can be misdiagnosed as acne vulgaris, or as we know it regular acne. Fungal acne can persist for many years if treated incorrectly. 


Fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast that is present normally on the body. This form of acne is known as Malassezia (pityrosporum) folliculitis. Sometimes the use of antibiotics and immunosuppressive medications can lead to an overgrowth. Regular acne medications will not cure fungal acne, antifungal medications are the most effective treatment for this type of acne. In some cases, fungal acne can be present together with acne vulgaris, which will then need regular acne medications added to the treatment regimen. The most effective treatment is an oral antifungal medication, which can sometimes be used for maintenance and prophylaxis.  


Question: What Does Fungal Acne Look Like?

Oily, intensely pruritic, 1 to 2mm, monomorphic follicular papules and pustules, often on the upper back, chest, and shoulders. The sides of the face and chin are most affected compared with the central facial lesions of acne vulgaris. There is also an absence of comedones.


Question: What Causes Baby Acne?

Infantile acne presents anytime between approximately 6 weeks and 12 months of age and displays a male predominance.  The exact cause of infantile is unknown. Some theories include a genetic predisposition and heightened sebaceous gland activity in response to normal levels of circulating androgens. 


Findings often include inflamed papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. Lesions are usually distributed to the skin of the facial region but can involve the chest and back as well.  If left alone, infantile acne can resolve within 6 to 12 months within onset.  Sometimes medication is needed in severe cases, but there are no FDA approved medications for treatment of acne in patients under 9, because of the lack of high-quality clinical trials.


If treatment is warranted, a topical agent can be used, such as a topical retinoid or benzoyl peroxide.  They can be used as monotherapy or in combination. If an antibiotic is necessary for mild inflammatory acne, topical erythromycin or clindamycin can be used, but never as monotherapy.


Question: How To Get Rid of Hormonal Acne? 

Acne can sometimes be caused by hormonal factors.  At adrenarche, there is an increased level sebum production caused by the increase of androgens, sebogenic hormones, and production and insulin like growth factors. 

Excess sebum allows for proliferation of C. acne and leads to hyperkeratinization and inflammation of the follicles.

While the main acne treatment regimens include topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and topical and or oral antibiotics, these medications are usually ineffective or insufficient to treat hormonal acne.  There are currently no topical medications to target the hormonal component of acne.  Therefore, combined oral contraceptives and spironolactone are sometimes used, but with careful consideration of each patient.

If hormonal acne is resistant with failure to respond to standard treatments, then a hormonal evaluation might be considered. 


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