Health A to Z



Acne is a common skin condition that occurs to most people at some point in life. Acne happens when hair follicle plugs with oil and dead skin cells; it is typical among young adults and teenagers. Acne causes red spots that are hot or painful to touch and oily skin.

Symptoms of acne

The symptoms of acne develop on the face, chest, and back. The face is where almost every acne-diagnosed person will develop the signs, the symptoms appear in nearly half of acne in the back, and for 15%, it affects the chest area.

Types of acne

There are typically six significant types of spots during acne:

  • Whiteheads: Has a firmer appearance and are filled with dirt when squeezed.
  • Blackheads: Black bumps, usually small, grow on the skin and are not filled with dirt when squeezed. They are black from the inner lining of the hair follicle.
  • Papules: Tiny red spots or bumps that may feel sore or tender.
  • Pustules: These are similar to papules but will have a white-tipped center filled with pus.
  • Nodules: These are huge lumps beneath the skin surface and will be painful.
  • Cysts: Cysts would be the most severe spot type of acne. They are usually filled with pus lumps similar to hot boils and risk permanent scars.
Types of acne

Self-help techniques for acne

  • Try to avoid washing the acne-affected areas more than twice a day.
  • Try cleaning the acne-affected regions with a mild cleanser, soap, and warm water.
  • Try not to squeeze the spots; it might worsen them or cause permanent scars.
  • Avoid using too much cosmetics or make-up.
  • Remove make-up entirely before going to bed.
  • For dry skin, use a fragrance-free water-based emollient.
  • Sweat can irritate acne, so shower after exercising.
  • Do hair-wash regularly to avoid hair falling on your face.


Acne can be managed but not cured with treatment. Seek professional advice even for mild acne. There are multiple creams and lotions available for treating spots. Low concentrated benzoyl peroxide products are suitable for acne. Severe acne in the chest or back is a sign of immediate doctor consultations.


Who gets acne?

Acne is widespread among teenagers and young adults. Nearly almost all adults between the age of 11–30 have acne. For boys, it starts at 14–17, and for girls, it’s 16–19. These happen when the hormone levels increase during puberty but can also begin at any age. Specific hormones can cause grease-producing glands near hair follicles and skin to produce abnormal sebum (oil). People might have acne on and off for several years before any signs. Genetics is also a common reason for developing acne. Hormone changes during pregnancy or menstrual or menopause can also lead to episodes of acne in females.


When to seek a doctor’s advice for acne?

Seek a general practitioner if you are unhappy with your acne or when your pharmacist’s medicine doesn’t work. Consult a professional if you have severe acne or develop cysts or nodules since they can lead to permanent scars. Specific treatments can take up to three months to function, so overnight results may not be possible for acne.

Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD
Page last reviewed: 23 JUNE 2022