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All about Acne

Acne is a chronic skin disease involving inflammation of the sebaceous glands. It affects 80% of teenagers and many adults, especially women, 35% being between the ages of 30 and 40. Acne represents 15-20% of all dermatology consultations.  

Disease overview



Acne is a skin disease that is particularly common among adolescents, though some people have acne that lasts into adulthood. Gollnick 2003

Acne involves a disorder with glands in the skin that are located next to hair follicles. These glands, called sebaceous glands, secrete an oily substance called sebum. Everyone has these glands, and the secretion of sebum is normal, but people with acne have larger glands that release more sebum in into the skin. The excess sebum can trap oil, bacteria, and skin cells. One bacterium in particular, known as P. acnes , is able to thrive in these conditions. P. acnes is normally present in the skin, however in people with acne they are present in much greater numbers. The growth and proliferation of these bacteria can cause inflammation of the skin, leading to pimples. Gollnick 2003


In most cases, a dermatologist or other health care provider can diagnosis by examining the affected skin. However, your doctor may ask several questions that are aimed at ensuring a proper acne diagnosis and to rule out other skin disorders. These include questions about: Bershad 2008

  • Areas of sensitive skin, or eczema
  • Other diseases that may affect the ability to handle medications
  • Previous drug allergies
  • Use of steroids (e.g., for bodybuilding)
  • Mood disorders or depression
  • Use of contraceptives, irregular menstrual period, current or past pregnancy, breast feeding

In some cases acne can mimic other related skin disorders, such as rosacea. This information will help your doctor make an informed diagnosis. Bershad 2008

Emotional Consequences

Having acne does not just mean superficial or cosmetic changes to the skin—it has an emotional aspect to it as well. Since the face is one of the primary areas affected by acne, symptoms of the disease can change the appearance of those affected, and this can lead to stress and anxiety. Depending on the severity of the condition, acne can lead to a negative self-image, including: Hamilton 2009

  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of confidence
  • Depression

These emotional consequences affect anyone who is suffering from acne—both men and women, young and old. Gollnick 2003  In addition to reducing the quality of life of people with acne, the emotional aspects of the disease have been shown to reduce productivity and employability. This impact on quality of life is comparable to what is seen in diseases like epilepsy or asthma. Hamilton 2009  There are also several myths surrounding acne, and this can cause misplaced feelings of guilt that worsen the emotional effects of the disease. Goodman 2006

Causes, Triggers, and Risk Factors

The exact cause of acne is not known, but researchers think that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. Family history of acne is a risk factor which suggests a genetic component. In addition, there are environment factors, or “triggers,” that also increase the risk of acne. You may notice that certain factors in your daily life may trigger your acne symptoms and cause pimples to flare up. Triggers can be very different from one person to the next, and it is important for you to keep track of your triggers to help you avoid them and minimize flare-ups.

Factors that may trigger acne include:

Certain medications

Certain steroid medications can cause symptoms very similar to those seen in acne. These symptoms will typically appear suddenly and progress rapidly. Corticosteroids, for example, can induce a characteristic form of acne that does not have comedones (blackheads or whiteheads), but rather papules and pustules. Anabolic steroids can also induce acne, in this case with prominent blackheads and whiteheads on the surface of affected skin. If you feel that a medication you are taking is making your acne worse, mention this to you doctor.Bershad 2008

Certain cosmetics and skin care products

Many cosmetics contain agents that are noncomedogenic—in other words, these agents don’t plug pores and cause whiteheads or blackheads. However, there are still some cosmetics with comedogenic agents.Goodman 2006 If you are worried that applying cosmetics or other skin care products is making your acne worse, you can look for labels that specify that these products are “noncomedogenic,” “non-pore-clogging,” or “oil free.” Bershad 2008


There is some indirect evidence that sweating or humid environments may trigger acne. It is possible that excess humidity partially blocks pores, leading to acne. Avoiding excess sweating and humid environments may help keep your pores free of clogging and result in fewer acne symptoms.Goodman 2006

There are also known risk factors for acne. Anyone can develop acne, but these factors can alter your risk of showing symptoms:

Family history

Hereditary factors seem to play a large role in acne development. This means that if acne runs in your family, you’re more likely to have it yourself. Bershad 2008

Menstrual period

Many women note that their acne tends to get better and worse in cycles, and that this is related to their menstrual period. Roughly 40% of female patients note acne flare-ups in the days leading up to their period.Bershad 2008


Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also result in temporary acne flares. Some treatments for acne are associated with serious birth defects if used during pregnancy, so it is important to report pregnancy to your dermatologist, and to inform your doctor of all acne medications you are taking.Bershad 2008


Diet has long been a controversial subject in acne research. There is a popular notion that greasy foods somehow contribute to oily or acne-prone skin. However, scientific studies of the causes of acne have not shown this to be true. Researchers have discovered some links between acne and certain components of a “Westernized diet”—specifically high-sugar foods and dairy products. However, there is no conclusive evidence for other food items such as chocolate or saturated fats. Goodman 2006, Spencer 2009



  • Acne is not infectious, and is not caused by poor hygiene
  • While acne typically first appears in adolescence, it may persist well into adulthood
  • Acne requires short- and long-term therapy
  • Acne has an emotional side, with many people feeling stress or anxiety about the way it changes their appearance
  • There is no conclusive evidence that fatty foods or chocolate are responsible for acne

Find out more about acne online:

The Galderma India website is focused on educating the public and patients about skin conditions and the different types of treatments that are available to treat and manage these diseases. 

This website is not intended to promote the use of Galderma India products or to provide information on which to base medical treatment. This site is not intended as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. We encourage you to use the information contained in this site to educate yourself about your disease and allow better communication between you and your healthcare professional. Please consult a dermatologist or other healthcare professional for more information about your condition and the product that is right for you.

The information on this site is only India-specific and contains information that is within the approved indications in India. Please contact our local Galderma representative for the latest product related information.

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