What is Acne and How to Treat it

Acne is a skin condition where the entrance to the skin follicles becomes blocked, swells and infected. A cape forms on the follicle not allowing the sebum, created by the sebaceous gland, to escape so the follicle becomes full of oil and bacteria breed, making the area yellow and red and angry-looking. Acne often causes embarrassment and discomfort for the sufferer.

Acne is caused by four means:

Hormonal Changes – an increase in testosterone at the beginning of puberty in both all sexes can cause a large increase in the amount of sebum sebaceous glands produced. Hormonal changes later in life can have the same effect. This increase in androgen can either be from the testicles, ovaries or adrenal glands.

Genetic skin defect – in some people the shape of their follicles make it difficult for the sebum to escape from the follicle and the oil builds up inside, giving rise to bacterial infection. People can also have curly or sideways slanting hair growth that blocks the follicle, which is called folliculitis.

Diet – has a large impact of the amount of testosterone the body produces and the amount of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands. A poor diet can lead to an increase in acne of all kinds.

Infection – the skin is a living organ and just as much prone to different kinds of infection as any other organ in the body. Infection breeds when the conditions are right.

There are generally three different kinds of acne:


These are quite small whitish/yellowish raised bumps and there are usually many of them all together, generally appearing on the face. The sebum is usually deep within the bump and needs professional extraction to clear the area. Milia start in teenage years but can also affect adults.

Cystic Acne

I like to refer to cystic acne as being different from acne vulgaris. Cystic acne can give rise to many boil-like pustules. These can be full of yellow pus ready to pop or they can be pustules under the skin.

Acne Vulgaris

This comprises very red, angry papules (boil-like) not only full of sebum but also quite infected. This causes comedones (whiteheads and blackheads) where the skin is blocked. They can appear anywhere on the body and unless treated they are liable to leave scars.


Rosacea generally happens in order people due to hormonal changes in midlife. It makes the skin quite red and can last for several years. While it is not technically acne, it behaves like acne and can lead to comedones.

In treating acne we use many different approaches at my clinic simultaneously. You must be prepared invest time and money in undergoing?? those treatments. Half an effort will not resolve the situation so it takes commitment on your part.

Hormone levels must be checked and adjusted when necessary, the diet must be changed, external topical medication can be used, skin treatments and peels can help the skin breathe more easily. Medications can be used to calm the skin and kill bacteria and light therapy can help kill the bacteria in the skin and the levels of stress you experience must be diminished.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND trained as an aesthetician in the early 1970s, is a naturopath, medical herbalist, and medical nutritionist who has worked with skin for more than 40 years and practices at the Australian Health and Education Centre, Sydney.

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