Understanding Acne

Skin imperfections both severe and mild can be overlooked by most people or considered an insignificant problem. However unless you have ever suffered from particularly bad skin, you can never truly understand the sometimes drastic negative effects it can have.

Aside from the physical appearance, the main effects are psychological. Bad skin can have an awful effect on someones self esteem and even cause depression. Along side possible bullying in the school years of someones life the depression caused by acne can sadly in the most extreme cases even result in suicide. Which is why i wanted to take my time researching and trying to put together a really insightful post on the topic as i know it is extremely important to a lot of people, including myself. I never always had great skin it is something i have taken years working at, trying countless products and routines so i personally understand the stresses and frustration it may cause someone. This post is mainly about understanding acne by understanding its causes how it happens and basically the topic in its entirety. 

Why Why Why...
Put simply, Acne occurs when hair follicles /pores get blocked.

Sebaceous glands are found near the surface of your skin attached to hair follicles, sebaceous glands lubricate the hair and the skin to stop it drying out. They do this by producing an oily substance called sebum.
Here is a diagram of a normal follicle:

When the glands begin to produce too much sebum. The excess mixes with dirt & dead skin cells; the substances form a plug in the follicle.Which forms a micromedone (illustrated bellow) 

Both Blackheads and whiteheads start out as micromedones

When the blockage stays bellow the surface of the skin and is closed to the outside air it does not oxidise and forms a whitehead.

Alternatively, blackhead occurs when the pore opens to the surface, and the sebum, which contains the skin pigment melanin, oxidises and turns a brown/black color. 

Blackheads are both stubborn and hard to completely eradicate, i personally would recommend weekly steam facials followed by either a clay face mask &/or effective nose strips .


Here are some basic & to the point known causes of acne:

  • Hereditary - various studies have shown that if acne runs in either or both sides of your family you are more likely to develop it yourself.
  • Hormone change - such as periods and pregnancy are a well known contributor to the development of breakouts as the increase in hormones at these stages can result in an overproduction of sebum.
  • Diet - A diet full of excessive amounts of simple carbs has recently shown some link to blemishes as A diet with a high glycemic value (high in sugar and other simple carbohydrates) sends insulin levels skyrocketing, which triggers sebum production, which contributes to the development of acne.Cells form more quickly and, when they become trapped in follicles, the usually harmless bacteria living on your skin then feast upon the excess oils; resulting in acne. This refers particularly to white bread,white potatoes and white rice; wholemeal options are recommended in replacement.
  • Dairy? - If you're a milk lover maybe take this into consideration.Dairy is harder for the body to digest as it is so intaking amounts higher then what your body can cope with will result in your body trying to rid itself of it through the skin, as the skin is an excretory system, which results in blemishes .
  • Oily Cosmetic Products/Not washing make up off - Particularly heavy application & pore clogging oil containing make up can be the cause of your breakouts.Opt for mineral make up &/or foundations with minimal ingredients. The improper removal of your make up is a big factor in the condition of your skin. I dont need to explain just how bad it is to sleep in your make up. A make up wipe will not suffice a good wash and thorough cleansing is preferable to make sure you have no traces of make up left on your skin. Leaving all the oil and dirt that has accumulated on your face throughout the day is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, the 5 mins it takes to wash your make up off properly is far better time spent then the 2 weeks you will spend combatting the breakout you got as a result of improper make up removal.Also sleeping with make up on leves traces of both make up,sweat and dirt on your pillow which again is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria during the day waiting to welcome you the next night so pay that in mind before u think its okay to miss washing your face tonight! 

  • Contact - excessive touching of the face, a swooping fringe, un sanitised telephones all of these things carry bacteria and oils that can clog your pores and cause a breakout. Simply ensure proper sanitation of your belongings and hands and keep hair off of your face as even if your hair isnt greasy the healthy oils found on your hair & product residue left over from styling can clog pores and cause spots on your forehead. This includes the picking of the face and blemishes, digging and scratching at your spots and placing excessive amounts of pressure on blemishes can actually push more dirt into the blemish inflaming it and even causing it to rupture under the skin resulting in the blemish spreading to other follicles and even forming cystic acne .(see picture below)

  • Harsh products - using harsh, particularly alcohol based, products to cleanse and tone your skin may cause breakouts as most over the counter acne treatments contain harsh chemicals that can irritate and inflame the skin. Remember if you are constantly stripping the skin of its natural oils it will produce even more sebum to compensate for the loss of moisture resulting in blemishes.

  • Stress - Stress releases certain chemicals in the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which cause disruption to the proper functioning of the organs of the body, including the skin. As the functioning of the skin decreases, such as the regulation of oil production, acne can form. To treat stress-related acne, make attempts to reduce stress and anxiety in your daily life. Consider drinking a calming tea throughout the day, such as chamomile.

There are also other causes such as allergic reactions & reacting badly to certain products etc ,which are things you mainly discover for yourself as you learn what does and doesn't agree with your skin.

What Can I Do?!
Your first instinct would be to use the strongest products out there to combat those pesky blemishes fast but this is not the answer.
As i mentioned before harsh products can irritate and inflame the skin making the condition worser than what you started with. opt for the gentle route first then if after a months trial you honestly see no improvement up the strength of the products you use in stages. 

My personal favourite skincare brand is lush fresh cosmetics as i know exactly what is in them, they are happy to explain how each and every product works and whats best is that their products are hand made freshly locally from fruits,vegetables and sustainable natural ingredients.They use a fridge to preserve most of their products and when they use artificial ingredients they are clearly pointed out in a different colour on the ingredients list.
Another range i would recommend is simple. Similar values as lush they keep their ingredients simple and gentle working with your skin rather then against it, fighting the breakout in the gentlest way possible with out irritating it with harsh ingredients.

Aside from topical products you can look into oral medications you can take, i would personally recommend a simple multivitamin and cod liver oil capsules as Cod liver oil is high inessential fatty acids which the body needs to make the hormone prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are important in controlling and reducing inflammation in the tissues.

A oral medication i have tried and liked is the HRI clear complexion tablets i recently done a post on them here, so please read if your interested in them, they are super affordable and i personally take them regularly as i feel acne is something that needs to be tackled not only topically but from within from a healthy balanced diet and maybe a little help with a herbal tablet ;)

Obvious factors as well such as giving up smoking and reducing alcohol intake will drastically improve the appearance of your skin, however out of all the tips mentioned the main one i would plead you follow is the proper removal and application of make up. Take that extra time before you go to bed to remove that make up, ensure you sanitise & clean your make up brushes regularly and limit touching your face as much as you can!

If there is anything else you wish for me to cover simply comment bellow and i will try to get back to you as quickly as i can and i will update this post as i find out new things .

Look out for an upcoming post im currently researching for about home made face masks and blemish treatments, i am aiming to do one post a week describing how to make a variety of different face masks using fresh ingredients found in your kitchen!

As always thank you for stopping by and i hope you enjoyed the post,
With love,

(References: Ehow, Acne.org, NHS.uk, skincarebydesign.com - pictures & info)


  1. Really interesting, I also struggle with blemish prone skin so this was really helpful! :) x
    Dreams and Dresses

  2. such a great post! thankyou for this! i have mild acne but even that for me is pretty annoying! i might get those tablets and give them a go :) x

  3. excellent post- I just posted about my 'adult' acne a few days ago on my blog! I love your blog! I am your newest follower and a fellow LUSH lover! Please follow me back <3

  4. Very insightful. I suffer badly as I have imbalanced hormones, but I'll be sure to clean my face thoroughly to help my acne :) thanks!