Acne: causes and treatments

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Pimples are not just a teen story! Generally, acne disappears around the age of 20, but it can persist and continue to cover the face, back and other parts of the body after this age. Overview !

Acne in numbers

Here are some figures about acne in France and around the world to play it down and tell yourself that you are not alone:

  • Acne affects 70% to 80% of teenagers.
  • Acne can persist or manifest into adulthood and affects 25% of adults.
  • Nodular acne is the cause of red, painful pimples larger than 5mm. It concerns 10 to 20% of people affected by acne.
  • In France, 6 million people are affected by acne.
  • Women are more affected than men with 61% of cases of mild or moderate acne.
  • Acne accounts for nearly 20% of dermatology consultations.

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What is Acne?

It is an inflammatory disease of the skin, which affects the sebaceous glands.

With excessive production of sebum, the bacteria that are in the sebaceous glands multiply. They then convert sebum into skin-irritating fatty acids. When irritating substances reach the epidermis, they cause inflammation. This is where red pimples and pimples with pus appear.

Acne affects several parts of the body including the face, back, chest and even the scalp.

Late acne?

Not always being a memory of adolescence, acne can affect people in their thirties. Generally, this appears on the chin, mandibles and back in the form of lesions in smaller quantities but with a predominance of nodules.

What are acne lesions?

  • Blackheads in the pores (open comedones).
  • Slightly bulging and hard whiteheads or closed comedones (closed microcysts).
  • Red pimples without pus (papules)
  • White-headed red pimples with pus (pustules)

The severity of acne is assessed according to the parts affected: face, back, etc.

Minor, medium and severe acne

We speak of minor acne when a few comedones appear on the face.

In addition to comedones, average acne is characterized by the spread of red papules and pustules on the face and eventually on the shoulders and back.

Finally, if nodules and cysts appear in addition to other already existing lesions and these nodules can cause scarring, then it is severe acne.

The causes of acne

In adult women, the intensity of acne changes greatly according to the menstrual cycle (during this period, the progesterone produced stimulates the sebaceous glands) with an outbreak of pimples before and during menstruation, this generally weakens until to the next cycle.

For other cases of acne, the reasons are not yet fully identified. Acne in adult women is associated with an excess of male hormones (excess body hair, hair loss, menstrual disorders and weight gain). However, hormonal abnormalities are not always a sufficient explanation for the appearance of this skin disease.

Genetics play a role in acne. If both parents have acne, the teenager and future adult may suffer from it too.

Finally, although cosmetics, pollution, stress and genetic factors are clearly involved, the real causes that cause acne in adult women are, to date, unknown.

Acne also affects adult men and is generally linked to heredity and stress. It most often spreads to the back.

Other Factors That May Cause Acne

The sun

Sun exposure can cause a specific type of acne called summer acne. It particularly affects women aged 25 to 40, who suffered from acne at puberty.


In view of its impact on the skin (by closing the pores), smoking can actively participate in the spread of acne.

The food

Until now, no serious scientific study has been able to prove a link between food and acne pimples.

On the other hand, some studies have shown that a high consumption of dairy products, sweets, cakes and fish oils is responsible for the activity of the sebaceous glands.

How to prevent acne?

To limit the appearance of these unpleasant pimples, here are some simple and effective tips:

  • Don’t touch/pop pimples and blackheads yourself. This small, careless gesture aggravates acne and increases the risk of lesion infection.
  • Do not expose yourself to the sun without suitable sun protection.
  • Avoid/limit tobacco.
  • Avoid stress. Consider doing the relaxation exercises listed in our article.
  • Cleanse your skin with suitable products. Cleans acne-affected areas without scrubbing.
  • Do not use antiseptic, alcoholic or degreasing products.
  • Do not use harsh scrubs.
  • Ask your pharmacist for advice on suitable make-up cosmetics.
  • Take a shower directly after physical exercise (recommended to oxygenate your skin) because sweat irritates acne lesions.
  • Make sure your hair is clean. The falling bangs on the forehead irritate and stimulate the sebaceous glands in this area.
  • A balanced diet with foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin B6, zinc and vitamin C. Consult your doctor before, some foods can cause allergies.

Acne treatments

Many treatments are available in pharmacies and are quite effective in treating moderate acne. On the other hand, if you suffer from a severe form of acne, you must consult your dermatologist who will offer you hormonal, antibiotic or retinoid treatment locally or systemically, depending on the case. Some forms of acne respond well to laser treatment.

Over-the-counter local treatment in pharmacies may include:

  • Gel, dermatological bar and adapted make-up remover.
  • A local anti-acne treatment.
  • Local antibiotics.
  • Zinc supplements, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, brewer’s yeast. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

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