Acne: causes and what treats it?

The cause of Acne occurs through multiple factors and mostly appears during puberty. The excess production of sebum as well as the presence of comedones, pustules, and papules is typical. Some patients also develop deep lesions and abscesses that can lead to scarring.

Acne has a large impact on the public health system, as it is among the first three most common skin diseases in the general population (1,2).

Although acne is, epidemiologically, a worldwide disease in puberty, it is more common in developed countries.

Acne in adults

Acne in the 30’s often appears in men, presumably due to the influence of androgens. In adult women it is typically related to discontinuing hormonal contraceptives, e.g. due to the desire to conceive, which statistically happens later and later in the female population of the Western world.

Other factors relevant to the acne appearance

As a multifactorial dermatosis, it can also be caused by an increased production of sebum, inflammatory mediators in the skin, and colonization by a microbe called Propionibacterium acnes (3,4).

In addition, studies have shown the existence of a genetic predisposition. Women whose mothers had acne have a higher probability to develop acne themselves. Furthermore, hormonal dysfunction such as overproduction of androgens, immunological disorders, environmental factors, and the wrong cosmetics can lead to this disease (5).

Acne has shown to be possibly caused by certain food products. There are several studies about it. On the basis of these findings, it can be said that foods which contain a high glycemic load lead to a worsening of acne (6,7).

It has also been discussed that acne could be caused by the consumption of red meat. A recent cross-sectional study conducted among adolescents in Nigeria showed a significantly higher prevalence of acne among students who reported a daily intake of fried beef (8). In order to be able to make an evidence-based statement on the Western population, further studies need to be conducted.

Treatment/Healing Recommendations

Regarding protective dietary factors, recent studies show that a diet rich in ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids leads to a decrease of inflammation in acne lesions (9). Therefore, a diet rich in vegetables and fish is recommended.

Acne treatments include the diagnosis and treatment of associated syndromes such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Patients with PCOS classically present with acne as a sign of hyperandrogenism, among other causes.

As recent observations point to higher levels of bisphenol A in biological fluids of women with PCOS and its role in the pathogenesis of hyperandrogenism and hyperinsulinemia (10), it remains unclear if bisphenol A could also play a role in the pathogenesis of acne.

Therapeutics Acne strategies

Therapeutic strategies include both topical and systemic treatment of acne. Treatment should be started quickly after diagnosis, in particular, to avoid scarring. An important pillar of the cosmetic treatment of seborrheic skin is the thorough, but gentle cleansing of the skin, because cleansing measures that are too aggressive can cause worsening of the seborrhea.

Well-suited formulations for the care of seborrheic skin are usually oil-in-water emulsions. To prevent acne caused by make-up products (acne cosmetica) in individuals with seborrheic skin, water-in-oil emulsions and ointments should be avoided.

Some key ingredients that you should consider:

This is why the choice of skin care products is essential. Not only the formulation, but also the ingredients play a crucial role. Here, we present some of the key ingredients that a skin care cosmetic line should include:

Zinc: Zinc is characterized by its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-pigmentation, and antimicrobial properties (11). It also acts as a physical sunscreen, thus decreasing the probability for developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Purslane: also known as Portulaca oleracea, it is known for its anti-inflammatory and hydrating effects (12).

Albatrellus ovinus: Extract from this terrestrial fungus, which is found in western North America and Northern Europe, leads to a reduction of reddening and microcirculation (13).

Panthenol (provitamin B5), tocopherol (vitamin E), niacinamide (vitamin B3): Many studies have shown the positive effects of these ingredients. In a large randomized study involving over 200 participants with dark skin, the daily use of a panthenol-containing lotion in combination with niacinamide and tocopherol acetate over the course of six weeks caused a significant reduction of skin pigmentation, improved uniformity of skin tone, as well as improvement of skin texture (14,15).

Read more about Panthenol >

Read more about dark skin >


The treatment of acneic skin is an integral part of a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle. Proper skin care has an anti-inflammatory and moisturizing effect and is crucial in order to avoid unnecessary irritation.


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