Acne and Blackheads : Causes, symptoms and treatments


Acne is a skin condition resulting in the formation of red spots and pimples, especially on the face, neck, shoulders, back, chest and upper arms. Blackheads are a mild form of acne and are not painful to touch. These are usually caused due to the clogged hair follicles filled with oil and dirt. Acne appears as little red bumps whereas blackheads have a dark surface and may not be protruded like acne.

Causes of acne and blackheads

These skin conditions are usually caused when the opening of the sebaceous glands gets blocked due to dirt or dry skin flakes. In this case, the oil, dirt and dead skin cells start collecting around the hair follicle leading to the development of a bump on the skin. If the bump stays closed, it is called a whitehead. On getting exposed to air, it develops a dark color and is known as blackheads. If the clogged pores get further infected by bacteria, the spot gets inflamed and is known as acne.

The most common triggers for acne and blackheads are

  • Excess of oil production by the sebaceous glands
  • Buildup of the propionibacterium acnes, the acne causing bacteria on the skin surface
  • Constant irritation on the skin due to dead skin cells
  • Hormonal changes, especially during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and child birth
  • Intake of certain drugs, including corticosteroids, lithium, and androgens

In some people, certain food and drinks like dairy, excess of sugar or carbohydrates may also trigger acne.


Acne and blackheads are very easy to spot. Blackheads are slightly raised and are not painful. Acnes may be painful to touch and are accompanied by a skin redness which can gradually turn into inflammation and burst open.


Acne does not cause any serious complication except for the scarring. These are usually deeper than pimple scarring and are permanent. The scarring can get worse if you pick or squeeze on the spots before the acne has healed. Depending on the severity, acne scars can be classified into

  • Ice pick scars

These are small but deep holes that appear on the skin surface. Ice pick scars look as if the skin has been punctured with some sharp object

  • Rolling scars

These are caused due to the scar tissues that form underneath the skin surface and give a rolling appearance to the skin.

  • Box scars

These are craters formed on the skin after an acne or blackhead dries away. They are usually or round in appearance.

  • Acne and acne scarring may cause intense anxiety and stress resulting in withdrawal from the society and depression.


Acne and blackheads usually occur in teens and young adults. The most common form of treatment includes traditional topical creams and gels. These include Retinoids, Retin A, Renova, Differin, and Tazorac. These medications show the effect by unblocking the pores. Doctors may also combine oral antibiotics like tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, and erythromycin along with the ointments. These antibiotics kill the inflammation causing bacteria that take root around the pores.

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