What Makes Acne Clear Up?

Acne, a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, is not only frustrating but also often detrimental to one’s self-esteem. If you’ve ever wondered what causes acne to clear up, you’re not alone. Understanding the factors that contribute to the clearing of acne can help individuals better manage their condition and achieve a smoother, blemish-free complexion. In this article, we will explore the various factors that play a role in clearing up acne, offering helpful insights and practical tips along the way. So, let’s embark on a journey to uncover the secrets behind radiant, acne-free skin!

Causes of Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that can affect individuals of all ages. Understanding the causes of acne is essential in order to effectively treat and prevent breakouts. The following factors contribute to the development of acne:

Excess sebum production

One of the primary causes of acne is the overproduction of sebum, which is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. When there is an excessive amount of sebum, it can mix with dead skin cells and clog pores, leading to the formation of acne.

Buildup of dead skin cells

The buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin can also contribute to the development of acne. These dead skin cells can mix with sebum and block the pores, creating an environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive.


The presence of certain bacteria on the skin, particularly Propionibacterium acnes, can contribute to the formation of acne. These bacteria can cause inflammation and infection within the clogged pores, leading to the characteristic redness, swelling, and pus-filled lesions associated with acne.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes, particularly during puberty, can greatly influence the onset and severity of acne. Increased hormone levels, such as androgens, can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, leading to an increased risk of acne.


Inflammation plays a significant role in the development and progression of acne. When the skin becomes inflamed, it can further exacerbate the clogging of pores and the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Inflammation can also contribute to the redness and swelling associated with acne lesions.

Types of Acne

Acne can present in various forms, each characterized by specific symptoms and appearances. It is important to accurately identify the types of acne in order to determine the most suitable treatment approach. The following are the common types of acne:


Whiteheads are small, raised bumps that appear on the skin. They are closed comedones, meaning that the clogged pores are not exposed to the air. Whiteheads are typically flesh-colored or white and do not contain pus.


Blackheads, also known as open comedones, are similar to whiteheads but have a dark or black appearance. The clogged pore is open to the air, causing the sebum and dead skin cells to oxidize and turn black.


Papules are small, red, and inflamed bumps that can often be tender to the touch. They occur when the walls of the clogged pores break, leading to the leakage of sebum and causing an inflammatory response.


Pustules are similar to papules but have a white or yellowish center filled with pus. They are often larger and more painful than papules. Pustules result from the accumulation of dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria within the pores.

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Nodules are larger, solid, and painful bumps that develop deep within the skin. They are often red and can persist for weeks or months. Nodules form when the clogged pores become severely inflamed, leading to the breakdown of surrounding tissues.


Cysts are the most severe form of acne and can cause significant pain and scarring. They are large, pus-filled lesions that develop deep within the skin. Cysts result from the blockage of the pores, leading to the buildup of fluid, bacteria, and dead skin cells.

Acne Treatment Approaches

Fortunately, there are various treatment approaches available to effectively manage and control acne breakouts. The following treatment methods are commonly employed:

Topical treatments

Topical treatments are applied directly to the skin and often contain ingredients that target the underlying causes of acne. These treatments can include creams, gels, or lotions that contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, topical retinoids, antibiotics, or tea tree oil. These medications work by reducing sebum production, unclogging pores, and decreasing inflammation.

Oral medications

In some cases, oral medications may be prescribed to control moderate to severe acne. Oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline or erythromycin, can help to reduce the presence of acne-causing bacteria. Combined oral contraceptives, particularly those containing estrogen and progestin, can also be effective in managing hormonal acne in women. Isotretinoin, a potent oral medication, is generally reserved for severe cases of acne that do not respond to other treatments.

Lifestyle changes

Making certain lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on acne management. Establishing a consistent skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and the use of non-comedogenic products can help prevent breakouts. Modifying one’s diet by avoiding high glycemic index foods and reducing the consumption of dairy products can also contribute to improving acne. Regular exercise and stress reduction techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can help to balance hormone levels and minimize the risk of breakouts.

Professional treatments

In some instances, professional treatments may be necessary to treat stubborn or severe acne. Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to exfoliate the skin and improve its appearance. Microdermabrasion uses a special device to gently remove the outer layer of the skin, reducing the appearance of acne scars and promoting the growth of new, healthier skin. Laser and light therapies target acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation. Extraction of blackheads and whiteheads can be performed by a dermatologist to remove stubborn and deeply embedded acne lesions. Cortisone injections are reserved for large, painful acne cysts and work by reducing inflammation and promoting healing.

The Role of Topical Treatments

Topical treatments play a vital role in the management of acne by directly targeting the underlying causes of acne. The following are commonly used topical treatments for acne:

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a widely used ingredient in many over-the-counter acne treatments. It works by killing acne-causing bacteria, reducing inflammation, and helping to unclog pores. Benzoyl peroxide is available in various strengths and forms, including gels, creams, lotions, and cleansers.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that is effective in exfoliating the skin and unclogging pores. It helps to remove dead skin cells, reduce inflammation, and promote the turnover of new skin cells. Salicylic acid is commonly found in cleansers, toners, and spot treatments.

Topical Retinoids

Topical retinoids, such as tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene, are derived from vitamin A and are effective in reducing acne. They work by preventing the formation of comedones, reducing inflammation, and promoting the growth of new skin cells. Topical retinoids are usually available in creams or gels and require a prescription from a dermatologist.


Topical antibiotics, such as clindamycin or erythromycin, can be prescribed to target acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation. They are typically used in combination with other acne treatments and are available in gels, creams, or lotions. However, long-term use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, so they are generally used for shorter durations.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural ingredient with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce redness and inflammation. Tea tree oil is often diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and applied topically to the affected areas.

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The Role of Oral Medications

Oral medications can be useful in managing acne, particularly when topical treatments alone are not effective. The following oral medications are commonly prescribed for acne:

Oral Antibiotics

Oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline, doxycycline, or erythromycin, work by reducing the presence of acne-causing bacteria in the skin. They help to control inflammation and improve acne symptoms. Oral antibiotics are typically used for a limited duration to avoid antibiotic resistance.

Combined Oral Contraceptives

Combined oral contraceptives, commonly referred to as birth control pills, contain both estrogen and progestin hormones. They can help regulate hormone levels and manage acne in women. Combined oral contraceptives work by reducing the production of sebum and decreasing inflammation. They are particularly effective for hormonal acne.


Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is a powerful oral medication prescribed for severe, cystic acne that does not respond to other treatments. It works by decreasing sebum production, reducing inflammation, and preventing the formation of comedones. However, isotretinoin carries potential side effects and requires careful monitoring by a healthcare professional.

Effectiveness of Lifestyle Changes

Making certain lifestyle changes can complement medical treatments and help improve acne management. The following lifestyle modifications can be beneficial:

Proper skincare routine

Adopting a consistent skincare routine is essential in maintaining healthy skin and preventing acne breakouts. This routine should include gentle cleansing using a mild cleanser, moisturizing to prevent dryness, and using non-comedogenic products that do not clog the pores.

Dietary modifications

While the relationship between diet and acne is not fully understood, some dietary modifications may help improve acne symptoms. Avoiding high glycemic index foods, such as sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates, and reducing the intake of dairy products may be beneficial for some individuals. It is important to note that dietary changes may not have the same effect on everyone, and individual experimentation may be necessary.


Regular exercise can have numerous benefits for overall health, including potential benefits for acne management. Exercise helps to improve blood flow, reduce stress levels, and balance hormone levels, which can contribute to healthier skin. However, it is important to maintain good hygiene practices, such as showering after exercise, to prevent sweat and bacteria from exacerbating acne.

Reducing stress levels

Stress has been linked to the development of acne and can exacerbate existing breakouts. Engaging in stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises, can help to lower stress levels and minimize the risk of acne flare-ups. Taking time for self-care and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can also be beneficial for overall well-being and acne management.

Professional Treatments for Acne

In cases where acne persists or is particularly severe, professional treatments administered by dermatologists can be highly effective. The following professional treatments are commonly used for acne:

Chemical peels

Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin, which causes the top layer of the skin to peel off. This process helps to eliminate dead skin cells, unclog pores, and improve the overall appearance of the skin. Chemical peels can be beneficial for treating acne scars, improving skin texture, and reducing the severity of breakouts.


Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive procedure that involves using a special device to gently exfoliate the outermost layer of the skin. This process helps to remove dead skin cells, unclog pores, and stimulate the growth of new, healthier skin cells. Microdermabrasion is effective in reducing the appearance of acne scars, improving skin tone, and minimizing the frequency of breakouts.

Laser and light therapies

Laser and light therapies target acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation, helping to improve acne symptoms. These treatments use specific wavelengths of light to penetrate the skin and kill bacteria, ultimately leading to clearer skin. Laser and light therapies can also help to stimulate collagen production, which can aid in the healing of acne scars.

Extraction of blackheads and whiteheads

Dermatologists may perform extractions to remove stubborn blackheads and whiteheads manually. This procedure involves gentle pressure and tools to safely extract the clogged pores. Extraction helps to remove the accumulated debris and can alleviate inflammation and prevent the formation of more severe acne lesions.

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Cortisone injections

Cortisone injections are typically reserved for large, painful acne cysts. This treatment involves injecting a corticosteroid directly into the cyst, which helps to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Cortisone injections are particularly effective in quickly reducing the size and pain associated with cystic acne.

The Role of Diet in Acne

While the relationship between diet and acne is complex and varies among individuals, certain dietary factors have been thought to influence acne development. The following considerations can be made when it comes to diet and acne:

High glycemic index foods

High glycemic index foods, such as sugary snacks, white bread, and sugary beverages, have been associated with increased acne severity. These foods cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, leading to the release of insulin and other hormones that can trigger increased sebum production and inflammation.

Dairy products

Several studies have suggested a potential link between dairy consumption and acne. It is believed that the hormones present in milk and dairy products can influence sebum production and promote acne development. Some individuals may find that reducing their intake of dairy products, particularly high-fat and high-sugar options, can improve their acne symptoms.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce acne inflammation. Incorporating these foods into one’s diet may contribute to overall skin health and may have a positive impact on acne symptoms.

Zinc-rich foods

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in skin health and wound healing. Some research suggests that zinc deficiency may be associated with increased acne severity. Consuming foods rich in zinc, such as oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, and lentils, may help promote skin healing and reduce inflammation.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help promote a healthy gut microbiome. Some studies suggest that imbalances in gut bacteria can contribute to the development of acne. Consuming probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, or taking probiotic supplements may help restore the balance of gut bacteria and potentially improve acne symptoms.

Preventing Acne Breakouts

Prevention plays a crucial role in managing acne and reducing the frequency and severity of breakouts. The following preventive measures can help keep acne at bay:

Maintaining a consistent skincare routine

Establishing and maintaining a consistent skincare routine is essential in preventing acne breakouts. This routine should include gentle cleansing twice a day using a mild cleanser, moisturizing to prevent dryness, and using non-comedogenic products that do not clog the pores.

Avoiding excessive touching or picking at the skin

Touching or picking at the skin can introduce bacteria and irritate existing acne lesions, leading to further inflammation and potential scarring. It is important to resist the urge to touch the face and avoid popping or squeezing pimples.

Using non-comedogenic products

Non-comedogenic products are specifically formulated to not clog the pores, making them ideal for individuals with acne-prone skin. Using non-comedogenic moisturizers, makeup, and sunscreens can help prevent pore blockage and reduce the risk of breakouts.

Regularly washing bedding and towels

Bedding and towels can harbor bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells that can contribute to acne breakouts. Regularly washing and changing pillowcases, towels, and sheets can help maintain a clean environment for the skin and reduce the risk of bacterial buildup.

Monitoring hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations can greatly influence the onset and severity of acne. Keeping track of hormonal changes, such as those associated with menstrual cycles, can help individuals anticipate potential breakouts and adjust their skincare routine accordingly. It may also be beneficial to consult with a healthcare professional to discuss hormonal management options.

The Importance of Patience

Managing and treating acne requires patience, as acne does not clear up overnight. It is important to keep in mind the following aspects:

Acne treatment takes time

Acne treatment is a process that requires time and consistent effort. It may take several weeks or even months to see significant improvement in acne symptoms. It is important to remain patient and continue with the prescribed treatment regimen to achieve the desired results.

Individual response varies

Each individual’s response to acne treatments can vary. What works for one person may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the most effective treatment approach for a particular individual. Dermatologists can provide guidance and adjust treatment plans based on individual needs.

Persistence is key

Consistency and persistence are key when it comes to managing acne. It is important to follow the prescribed treatment regimen consistently and give it time to work. Skipping treatments or discontinuing medication prematurely may hinder progress. By staying committed and persistent, acne symptoms can gradually improve.

In conclusion, understanding the causes, types, and treatment options for acne can significantly help in managing and preventing breakouts. With a combination of appropriate topical and oral medications, lifestyle modifications, professional treatments, and a well-balanced diet, individuals can effectively control acne and promote healthier, clearer skin. Patience and persistence are essential throughout the acne management journey, as results may take time and vary among individuals. By adopting a comprehensive approach to acne treatment, individuals can regain confidence and achieve long-term skin health.