What is Acne?
Acne is attributed mostly to a hormonal imbalance, which can affect the function of the sebaceous glands, whose job it is to create sebum, or oil. This oil travels along the pore to hydrate and protect the skin on the surface. When too much sebum becomes clogged within a pore and pairs with dead skin cells from the surface, bacteria known as P. acnes forms, triggering an inflammatory response from the body. This process is known as the acne cascade, and usually results in red, swollen bumps known as pimples, a symptom of acne.
What You Need To Know
What It Looks Like: Painful under-the-skin zits
When a clogged pore ruptures under the skin, your body tries to stop the bacteria from coming out of the pore by forming a protective cyst around it, explains Dr. Engelman. These have no opening or 'head' and can take weeks to heal.
What It Looks Like: Black dots in your T-zone
Similar to whiteheads, these are clogged pores — but they're not covered by skin. When oil and dead cells are exposed to oxygen, they darken, which is why they appear black, explains dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D.
What It Looks Like: Bumps with white caps
Their technical name is comedones — a fancy way of saying clogged pores covered by a thin layer of skin. That skin shields the pimple from oxygen; the white or yellowish color is oil and dead skin cells.
What It Looks Like: Chin and cheek breakouts
Hormonal fluctuations produce excess pore-clogging oil. Those blocked pores can appear as whiteheads or cystic bumps on the chin and jawline—the telltale area for period breakouts, says Dr. Engelman.