The Science Behind Beauty

By Dr Juliet O.

Friday, 2 March 2018

The Science Behind Acne

One big myth is that somehow acne is caused by having a bad diet and because you are unhealthy. Acne is way more complex than the beauty world makes it seem. And many people are led to believe that acne can be easily solved by over-the-counter cosmetics. Not to say, there aren’t great things out there on the market, but with acne, there is a much bigger story.


Definition: Acne vulgaris is a disorder of the pilosebaceous follicle which is made up of 1) a hair follicle and 2) oil-producing sebaceous glands. It can appear differently in various people and we can actually identify what type of acne is present and how severe it is.

Acne is related to:

1. Increased activity of the oil-producing sebaceous glands and/ or sometimes associated with a defect in how the oil (sebum) exits your pores.

2. The presence of hormones (androgens) in your circulation, which cause your glands to produce more oil (sebum), which may eventually lead to clogged pores.

3. Plugging/ clogging of the hair follicle because of abnormal keratinisation of the skin. This eventually leads to the formation of whiteheads/blackheads (also known as comedones). Comedones are made up of oil, dead skin cells and bacterial cells.

4. The bacterium (Propionibacterium acnes) in the hair follicle can live on the fatty acids from the oil (sebum). This will cause them to grow and multiply in number and when mixed with dead skin cells they can clog your pores and cause inflammation.

It is typically grouped into 4 stages:

· 1st stage: Comedonal acne- clogged pores or closed comedones are whiteheads; and comedones which are open  are blackheads

· 2nd stage: Inflammatory acne= pimples or papules (small & raised, <5mm) and pustules (small, raised pimples, filled with yellow pus)

· 3rd stage: Nodulocystic acne= nodules (pimples larger than >5mm, raised, round) and cysts (large and raised spots filled with pus/ large pustules)

· 4th stage: Acne scarring= pits and depressions in the skin and hyperpigmented areas. Usually scars occur when inflammation is present in the dermis of the skin. 

What else you need to know!

If your acne is comedonal, then it means that you have clogged pores and they can become enlarged and cause inflammatory or nodulocystic acne. If identified early enough that can be prevented and your doctor can help you with treatments that can break down the plug formation in your pores.

The treatment also varies according to what your acne is related to. Therefore doctors give treatment options with these preventative measures in mind.

If you would like to know more about them methods used in the treatment of acne look out for my next few posts as I will be discussing it soon. Please comment below if you have acne and what yours is related to. Hope you like this post and see you soon.

Love you lots J x


  1. This is a nice breakdown! Thankfully I don't get acne but occasionally I get a cystic spot that doesn't go away and will swell for weeks! Ugh!

    Shireen⎜Reflection of Sanity

    1. Oh no.. it can be quite annoying when it doesn't go away for a long time. Glad it was easy enough to digest. Thanks for commenting x

  2. Such a useful post Juliet, I've never seen the causes and stages of acne conveyed like this, it makes it that much more easy to understand..

    1. Such a lovely comment! I'm very glad that it was easy to understand. I think its very important to make science digestible. Thank you for commenting & I'm happy you find this useful!

  3. I'm eagerly waiting for part 2! :D

    1. Hi Jennifer! Thank you for commenting. Part 2 will be up soon! x


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