Is Acne a disease? (Myths about Acne and FAQ)


Sometimes it is the most common things about which we know lesser than we thought we did. It happens because, being so common, we look past really asking questions about it and tend to make assumptions based on what people tell us about it.

Take the case of acne disease.

Acne vulgaris, the most common form of acne, is something we come across every day on multitudes of people. We discuss its woes with our colleagues in the office and constantly ping for help in our friends’ group. And the word of mouth usually tends to do the trick.

However, a thorough understanding of acne is something everyone should possess. It helps in getting to know the finer details of the skin condition, and more importantly, dispel the myths you might have come across. The following are some of the more common questions that tend to come up.

Acne is usually identified by pimples that show up on the face, back and chest (1). A pimple is a skin abnormality that occurs when oil-producing glands called sebaceous glands in the skin get clogged up, leading to an infection (2).

From this point onward, the way the infection exhibits itself determines the type of acne that it is. Acne, in general, can be categorized into two groups, based on whether they are inflammatory or non-inflammatory.

Are Acne scars red?

Scarring is an inevitable result of acne breakouts; because the popping of pimples is actually a process that breaks open stretched and weakened skin follicles. And the scarring occurs when pigmentation is triggered in that part of the skin, due to a process known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (3).

This is because our immune system triggers melanin production when faced with bacteria and possible infection. Based on your skin color, these scars may appear within shades of red or darker browns.

Is Acne bacterial?

This question is often framed wrongly in people’s minds, because of their lack of understanding on acne. In reality, acne is in fact caused by bacterial infection within the follicles in the skin. This happens when the sebaceous glands produce too much oil and cause a clogging of the pores.

When this is combined with the bacteria and dirt that settles on our face, it causes a bacterial infection within the pores, leading to any one type of acne showing up (4). The rupturing of such pimples or acne can lead to further spreading of acne because this infected fluid is notorious for infecting healthy pores.

Is Acne itchy?

Out of the different types of acne, there are some, which trigger itching more than others. The most common types of inflammatory acne are pustules, papules, nodules, and cysts. 

And cystic acne, in particular, is one that hurts and causes itching more than the others. These are large and painful breakouts on the skin, which leave behind redness and scars (5). It is more deep-rooted and has increased tenderness; hence itching is normal in this case.

Do Acne scars go away?

One of the biggest concerns people tend to have about acne is the scarring that it causes. A scar is our body’s hasty reaction to any disruption on the surface of our skin and is the defined residual mark following the healing of any wound (6).

When any wound is inflicted on the skin that damages the dermis, it quickly starts forming a cover to protect the wound from possible germs and bacterial infection.

This comes in the form of collagen, which is a structural protein produced by fibroblasts in the dermis (7). Although the intention and purpose are justified, we still see the scars as visible defects and have a tough time making them go away.

When left unattended, scars rarely tend to go away and may only fade lightly in color, as our skin continually replenishes itself. However, there are a plethora of options when it comes to removing these scars, which include everything from natural home remedies to surgical procedures.

Popular natural remedies include the use of aloe vera, honey and lemon juice, or even coconut oil on the scar. The reasons behind such products are their anti-inflammatory and even bleaching properties that help in reducing the pigmentation in the region.

As for the surgical procedures option, this is usually reserved for very severe cases of acne (8). This often requires the approval of dermatologists or skin care experts.

Is Acne a sign of early pregnancy?

Amongst the numerous signs of early pregnancy, acne is definitely a prominent one. It is very common to see a flare in acne breakouts towards the beginning of pregnancy. This is because hormonal changes are a major cause of pimples (9).

A change in certain hormones triggers the sebaceous glands to produce excessive amounts of oil, which increases chances of clogging and bacterial infections. And since hormonal changes are a part and parcel of pregnancy, it is only natural for acne to increase at some point.

Is Acne contagious?

This happens to be a doubt that is surrounded by misconceptions. Although acne is caused by bacterial infections, it is not actually contagious. A particular bacterium known as p. acnes bacteria causes the infection on our skin and it exists on the surface of our skin.

However, there are external factors that must influence these bacteria to function the way they do (10). This helps show that acne is not contagious. So the fear most people have of contracting acne from someone with the condition is not justified.

These kinds of misconceptions and myths have indeed antagonized people and often led to emotional stress and depression in people who suffer from the condition, so it is important to be aware of such facts.

Is Acne genetic?

The connection between acne and genetics is a more direct one than we often realize. This is because it is our immune system which primarily determines how we react to the particular p. acnes bacteria that causes acne. And only our genes determine this.

Also, there are secondary genetic traits that determine how we react to acne. These may be the kind of skin type we end up with. For instance, having naturally oily skin and excessive amounts of oil-producing glands means increased chances of acne (11).

Similarly, having a tendency or over-produce skin may also increase chances of infection on our skin due to the constant debris that is present on our skin’s surface.

Overall, an increased understanding of acne can really help in not only treating your own condition but also help in understanding the plight of others suffering from the skin condition.

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Picture of Dr Jisha Gomez

Dr Jisha Gomez

She is a highly skilled dermatology physician with strong expertise in improving skin & hair health through the development of corrective treatment combinations. She completed her Post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff, UK & Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine (FAM) from the Institute of Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, Delhi with over 5+ years experience treating skin patients. She has worked in Government hospitals in Trivandrum and Bangalore. She is actively involved in creating awareness for healthy skin, breaking the social stigma based on skin colour & stopping steroid abuse in our country.