Skin acne – symptoms, causes and associated risk factors

Skin acne

It is known fact that the most common skin condition is skin acne. Most people develop it to some degree. But primarily this condition is affecting teenagers because they are having hormonal changes. [1] It is known that acne degree can be different. They can be mild which means that there are few and occasional pimples. Also there can be moderate acne which is inflammatory papules or they can be severe known as nodules and cysts. The treatment of skin acne depends on the severity of this condition. Acne cannot be cure but they can be controlled with treatments that are available in all parts of the world. It is known fact that acne run in families. If your parents had acne, then it is likely that you will have acne one day. Hormonal changes which are happening during the pregnancy or menstrual cycle can also lead to episodes of acne in women. [2] There are not evidences in which is said that sexual activity, poor hygiene or diet can lead to acne.

This condition is very common in teenagers and younger adults. It is known fact that about 80% of people that are aged 11 to 30 are affected by acne. [3] In the most cases people have acne on and off several years before their symptoms start to improve or as they get older. In the most cases acne disappear when people are in their mild – twenties. There are some cases when acne continues into adult life. There are some evidences in which is shown that about 1% of men and 5% of women have acne over the age of twenty five. More than 80% of cases of adult acne are happening in women [4]. Many women have hormonal changes at certain times and this is a reason why they have skin acne.

Occasions of appearance of skin acne

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: This is a common condition which can cause acne, weight gain and the formation of small cysts inside the ovary. [5]
  • Pregnancy: Many women have symptoms of acne at this time, usually during the first 3 months of their pregnancy. [2]
  • Periods: Some women have a flare – up of acne just before their period. [6]

Types of skin acne

There are 6 main types of spots which are caused by acne:

  • Cysts: This is the most severe type of spot caused by acne. They are large pus – filled lumps that look similar to boils and they carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring.
  • Nodules: This is a large hard lump which can build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful.
  • Pustules: Pustules are similar to papules but they have a white tip in the centre which is caused by a build – up of pus.
  • Papules: They are small red bumps which may feel sore or tender.
  • Whiteheads: They have a similar appearance to blackheads but they may be firmer and they will not empty when squeezed.
  • Blackheads: They are small or yellowish bumps which develop on the skin. They are not filled with dirt. They are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle produces pigmentation (coloring).

Skin acne

Causes for skin acne

Acne is primarily a hormonal condition driven by androgenic or male hormones which are becoming active during the teenage years. Sensitivity to these hormones, which in a combination with bacteria on their skin and the fatty acids within oil glands, are causing acne. Testosterone plays an important role in stimulating the growth and development of the penis and testicles in boys and maintaining muscle and bone strength in girls. It is known fact that the sebaceous glands are sensitive to hormones. It is thought that the increased levels of testosterone cause the glands to produce much more sebum than our skin needs. The most common sites of oil glands are the chest (this type of acne affects about 15% of people with acne), face (acne usually affect all people with acne), shoulders and back (this type of acne usually affects more than half of people with acne). Acne lesions include cysts, nodules, small bumps, blackheads and whiteheads. [2,5,6]

Risk factors for skin acne

  • Clothing (for example sport helmets and hats) and headgear [7]
  • Manipulating (picking/prodding) acne lesions 
  • Fluctuating hormone levels around the time of menses (this is meant for women) [6]

Skin acne is a normal physiological condition but above are some conditions which can aggravate this condition.


[1] Fabbrocini G, Cacciapuoti S, Monfrecola G. A qualitative investigation of the impact of acne on health-related quality of life (HRQL): Development of a conceptual model. Dermatology and Therapy. 2018;8(1):85–99.

[2] Awan SZ, Lu J. Management of severe acne during pregnancy: A case report and review of the literature. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. 2017;3(3):145–50.

[3] Zucker ML. Chapter 15: Acne. Adolescent Medicine. 2008;97-103.

[4] Schmitt JV, Masuda PY, Miot HA. Acne in women: clinical patterns in different age-groups. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2009;84(4).

[5] Mehta-Ambalal S. Clinical, biochemical, and hormonal associations in female patients with acne: A study and literature review. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2017;10(10):18–24.

[6] Stoll S, Shalita AR, Webster GF, Kaplan R. The effect of the menstrual cycle on acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2002;45(6):957-60. doi: 10.1067/mjd.2001.117382

[7]  Teo WL. Diagnostic and management considerations for “maskne” in the era of COVID-19. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2021;84(2):520–1.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.