The real causes of acne and how to treat it

You stress out, break out, and then stress out about breaking out,

Then sometimes your skin is clear, sometimes it’s not.

Welcome to the wonderful world of acne breakouts.

If there’s one takeaway from reading NC, it’s that everyone has their own system for preventing and treating breakouts.

But to truly understand those most bothersome of breakouts, you have to go back to basics.

Otherwise, how can you begin to treat it successfully?

Characteristics of acne

  • inflammation
  • bacteria proliferation
  • follicular desquamation
  • thickening of the outer layer of skin
  • abnormalities in sebum production

These are just some of the ways acne presents itself in the skin.

Who is at risk?

  • 85% of adults will experience it at some point in their life
  • if it affects 8% of those between the ages of 25 and 34
  • it affects 3% of 35 to 44-year-old’s
  • it usually affects adolescent females earlier than males
  • males will usually get acne far more aggressively than females
  • those with darker skin are at risk of developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, in conjunction with acne

How does acne form?

Our sebaceous glands are found all over the body, close to the surface of our skin.

Surrounding these glands is a basal membrane, and it is here that immature cells called sebocytes are formed.

Once these cells become detached from the basal membrane, they begin to collect lipids. It begins its journey towards the sebaceous gland’s centre until it is almost completely converted into lipids.

Once full, the cell disintegrates, and the lipids are expressed directly into the sebaceous gland. These secretions run up the hair shaft, through the sebaceous duct, coating the hair and the surface of the skin, mixing with other surface lipids.

These surface lipids help create an ecosystem for the acid mantle, forming the skin’s defence barrier. A large percentage of the lipids from the sebaceous glands are known as triglycerides.

Cutibacterium acnes

As these triglycerides move up through the sebaceous duct to the skin’s surface, a change occurs in them, which is caused by the bacteria known as cutibacterium acnes, which just loves to thrive in oily environments, and the more oil produced, the more blocked our pores become and the more the bacteria thrive.

As you can imagine all of this creates a vicious cycle of inflammation, the only way to nip this in the bud is to treat the root cause, which will all depend on the grade of acne, this requires specialist advice from a dermatologist.

Acne treatment

Here at NC we are there for you, and recommend a more gentle targetted approach:

RESQ anti-blemish complex is a targeted spot treatment. Use this drying lotion with a Q-Tip – it’s got salicylic acid, camphor, and sulfur to really dry the thing up.

B+ niacinamide complex is a multi-tasking skin shot, that will not only help to balance oil on the surface of the skin but also reduce any unwanted inflammation.

A+ retinol complex is a Vitamin A boost that not only delivers amazing anti-ageing benefits but will help to balance any excess oil.

Quench gel should be layered over your serums, it is super hydrating and will help replenish a dehydrated skin, which is often characteristic of oily skin types.

GP’s often prescribe antibiotics as an acne treatment, in order to attempt to reduce the level of cutibacterium acnes in your skin; this reduction helps to lower the rate of triglycerides, decreasing the inflammatory response; the problem with antibiotics is that they only treat the symptoms and not the cause, which only has a limited effect on the bacteria, and the bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics.

For hormonal acne treatment, birth control is often prescribed, we recommend consulting with a dermatologist or doctor regarding any concerns you may have, especially if you are currently on medication.

For further reading – this is interesting research on new treatments for acne.

Fatty acids

Because free fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, antibiotics are not very effective for treating hormonal acne either.

We feel it makes more sense to start the treatment targeting the Fatty Acids, rather than destroying or reducing them, as they play a role in the skin barrier defence.


To prevent acne from occurring in the first place, it is essential to keep the acid mantle and barrier function completely intact.

Regular facials and a good daily home care routine, as discussed above, are key, keep the sebaceous glands free of blockages, and move all the time, this will prevent the build-up of excess keratinisation.

It is also best to avoid wearing makeup, but if you feel you really can’t go without, become familiar with the ingredients that go into formulations, so you know which comedogenic substances to avoid.

To live a life that is acne free, remember that we are all metabolically different. No two people will ever respond to a treatment in the same way – treat your body holistically and become alert to any subtle changes within your skin.

Do as much research as you can on the subject, become your own physician – because ultimately, no one knows your skin better than you.


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