Acne, Explained

Acne, Explained

What causes acne and how do you get rid of it? This expert guide covers it all.

What is Acne?

Acne is a very common skin condition that affects millions of people all over the world, and it can be both physically and emotionally debilitating. 

Whether you’re experiencing acne on your face or other common areas like your back, there are several different ways to treat it, reduce existing breakouts, and prevent future acne breakouts from happening.

Before treating acne, it's important to know what causes it, how you can prevent it from happening in the first place, and what treatments are available if prevention doesn't work for you. This blog post will answer all of your questions about acne—including which products are best for reducing acne or getting rid of it completely.

What Causes Acne?

There are several factors that can lead to the development of acne. Hormones, genetics, and stress all play a role in the development of acne and some people simply have acne-prone skin.

Acne is caused by an overproduction of oil (referred to as sebum). When sebum builds up inside of your pores it creates a blockage that traps bacteria which causes swelling, redness, and eventually turns into a whitehead or blackhead.

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How Can You Prevent Acne?

Acne can be treated and prevented by using the proper skincare products, maintaining a healthy diet, and in some cases, using prescribed medication. We’ll explore all of the best options for treating and preventing acne below.

Prevention Option 1 - Lifestyle

Diet and Lifestyle
Greasy foods and those that contain dairy, carbohydrates, and sugar can lead to increased sebum production and acne for some people. While the scientific research linking acne to diet is not definitive, eating a healthy diet that contains low amounts of sugar, dairy, and carbohydrates may help prevent and reduce acne.

Reduce Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of breakouts for many people with acne-prone skin. When you're experiencing high levels of stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol which causes your oil glands to produce more oil. This increase in sebum production may lead to clogged pores and acne. 

Prevention Option 2 - Personal Hygiene


Most acne is not caused by dirty skin. That said, keeping your skin clean is a great way to prevent and reduce acne. Washing your face with an exfoliating cleanser and warm water will help remove excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells that can block pores. Avoid using hot water because it will dry out your skin, disrupt your pH balance, and cause breakouts to worsen.

It’s also important to make sure that you’re washing your pillow case regularly.

Wash Your Face Twice a Day with an Acne-Fighting Cleanser

Proper cleansing is one of the most important aspects of acne prevention. That said, it’s important to use the right cleanser for your skin. Many cleansers, even those labeled as “gentle” or “acne-fighting” might strip away your skin’s natural protective barrier. When this happens, your skin’s defence against acne-causing bacteria becomes compromised, leading to acne breakouts.

Prevention Option 3 - Medication


If changes to your diet and over-the-counter solutions don’t clear up your acne, you may want to consider prescription medication. Prescription medications for acne include topical applications like gels, creams, or ointments that contain high percentages of tretinoin (aka retinoid) to unclog your pores or clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide washes to help kill acne-causing bacteria.

There are also medicated acne treatments that can be taken orally in pill form. Prescription acne medication, both topical and oral treatments, come with side effects so it’s important to consult with your doctor first.

How Can You Reduce Acne?

There are a number of different ways to reduce acne depending on what kind of acne you're trying to treat.

Reduction Option 1 - Lifestyle


Gut health plays a role in so many aspects of our overall wellbeing, skin included. Probiotics are supplements containing live bacteria that, when consumed, may restore the composition of your gut microbiome and provide benefits to gut microbial communities. Healthy gut flora can manifest in many different ways including healthier looking skin and fewer acne breakouts.

If you’re interested in trying this method of treatment, talk to your doctor first as there are some probiotics that should be avoided.

Reduction Option 2 - Medication


For severe acne that can’t be treated with over-the-counter skincare products, you may want to speak to your doctor about prescription antibiotics. Popular antibiotics for treating acne include topical treatments like Clindamycin and oral treatments like Tetracyclines. Antibiotics work to clear acne by reducing the number of bacteria on your skin’s surface and inside of your pores.

Reduction Option 3 - Skincare

Skincare Products with Retinol

Skincare products that contain retinol can help to clear and prevent acne because these products help to exfoliate the surface of your skin and unclog your pores. These products also help to speed up your skin cell renewal process, which helps to prevent future pore clogging and acne breakouts from occurring when used regularly.

Facial Cleansers with Salicylic Acid


Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that helps to remove excess oil on the surface of your skin and unclog pores. It's commonly used to treat and prevent acne because it penetrates deeper inside of your pores than any other skincare ingredients, ensuring that your pores remain clear of future breakouts.

Benzoyl Peroxide Washes
Benzoyl peroxide is a popular over-the-counter acne treatment because it kills acne-causing bacteria, reducing existing acne and preventing future breakouts. The downside of benzoyl peroxide is that it can quickly dry out your skin so be sure to use a moisturizer and limit use if dryness persists. Benzoyl peroxide washes are especially good for acne on the chest and back because the skin on your chest and back is more durable and less susceptible to dryness than the skin on your face.

Charcoal Face Masks

Using a charcoal face mask can be great for mild cases of acne and acne prevention because charcoal deeply purifies your pores and draws out toxins and impurities that may contribute to acne. If you experience occasional breakouts, try incorporating a charcoal face mask into your skincare routine once per week.

Best Skincare Products for Acne?

It’s important to treat acne holistically. That means finding products that work for your skin type and taking care of yourself in other ways too, like limiting stress and foods that may cause acne.

When treating acne with skincare products, here’s what to look for.

Skincare products formulated with benzoyl peroxide can be very effective against acne because benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria before it causes breakouts. Salicylic acid is another popular ingredient for fighting acne because it has the ability to deeply clear out and purify your pores. Another effective skincare ingredient for acne is retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A that effectively exfoliates your skin and removes dead cells from the surface, speeding up cell turnover which helps prevent acne by removing clogged pores before they have a chance to form. While some forms and dosages of retinol require a prescription, there are many great retinol skincare products that are available over-the-counter.

Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads
Peter Thomas Roth produces a range of products designed for acne-prone skin. One of our favorites are the Max Complexion correction pads because they contain a blend of powerful exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid to deeply purify your pores and clear impurities from the surface of your skin. Using these convenient pre-soaked pads regularly will help to reduce and prevent acne.

Perricone MD Maximum Strength Acne Relief Spot Gel

Spot treatments are excellent for addressing stubborn, isolated acne breakouts. This spot treatment from Perricone MD contains a powerful percentage of salicylic acid for quickly reducing and clearing stubborn breakouts within hours.

Black Wolf Activated Charcoal Face Cleanser
Using the Black Wolf facial cleanser for acne is ideal for oily and acne-prone skin types because it contains both salicylic acids and charcoal to help purify your skin, decongest your pores, and reduce acne breakouts.

Introduction to Bottlecode

Bottlecode is the one-stop destination for men’s skincare and grooming products. Founded by men who struggled to find skincare products that worked, Bottlecode exists to help simplify the shopping process, eliminate confusion, and help men discover skincare and grooming products that deliver real results.

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