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Acne usually commences in early adolescence, and usually resolves in the early 20s, although it can last longer. It may affect around 80% of people during their teenage or early adult years.


  • Acne vulgaris, the most common form of acne, consists of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and cysts that appear mainly on the face and to a lesser extent on the chest, shoulders, arms and back.   
  • It may also occur on parts of the body that are affected by friction or pressure. (For example, where a backpack straps rub against the skin - this form of acne is called acne mechanica).   
  • Scarring may occur, especially from cysts.
  • In females, acne may be worse prior to the menstrual period, or during other periods of hormonal change, including pregnancy, menopause, or the use of oral contraceptions.
  • Stress can also trigger or aggravate acne outbreaks.
  • It is not uncommon for sufferers to become socially withdrawn, self-conscious, or even depressed.


Acne typically develops during puberty, when higher levels of male hormones called androgens increase the size and activity of the sebaceous glands. This in turn raises the skin’s sebum (oil) levels.

Hormonal fluctuations also mean some women experience acne as a component of pre-menstrual syndrome, or during other times of hormonal change, including pregnancy and menopause.

Whiteheads and blackheads occur when pores and dead skin cells become blocked by sebum.

Pimples develop if an inflammation or infection (often with the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes) sets in beneath the blocked pore. Cysts occur if pus and other secretions build up deep beneath the blocked pores within the hair follicles.

The use of certain drugs (e.g. anabolic steroids and some anti-seizure medicines), and exposure to chlorine compounds may also lead to acne problems. Excess iodine may also be involved in some cases.

You’re more likely to be affected by acne if one of your parents had the condition during their teenage years.

Natural therapies

  • Zinc helps maintain healthy skin, and is beneficial for skin repair and healing. It may assist in the management of acne.

Diet and lifestyle

  • Keep your skin clean by washing it twice daily, but don’t use harsh products or an aggressive scrubbing action. Keep your hair clean too, and keep it off the affected area so that it doesn’t add to the amount of oil present.
  • Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties, and may help to fight infection and heal lesions. It is best applied diluted or in specially formulated products, up to three times daily.
  • Try to resist the urge to touch acne lesions, as you may introduce additional dirt and germs to the area. Above all, don’t be tempted to squeeze or pick at pimples or other lesions. To do so may increase the risk of scarring and infection.
  • Choose oil-free cosmetics and ensure all make-up brushes and sponges are washed regularly. Always take your make-up off at the end of the day.
  • There are conflicting theories about the effects of diet on acne. While the research suggests there is no direct link between acne outbreaks and foods such as chocolate and sweets, natural therapies experts recommend avoiding fatty foods (especially trans fats), concentrated carbohydrates (especially carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index) and dairy foods.
  • Instead, eat a diet rich in antioxidants. Important sources include berries, citrus fruits, and brightly coloured vegetables such as carrots, capsicum and tomatoes. 
  • Take steps to manage your stress levels. Relaxation therapy, meditation and massage may all help to decrease stress.

Important notes

  • In severe cases, your doctor may recommend the use of antibiotics or other medications to help control your acne. Many sufferers prefer to explore natural options first, as some of these medicines are associated with adverse effects.

Get free personalised advice from our team of qualified naturopaths here
Dear Yi Shun,
Thank you for your comment.
There are a number of nutrients that you can consider to help improve pimples. Zinc, along with vitamins A and C all play a role in skin health.
Zinc is important for healthy skin and wound healing. Low zinc levels can increase susceptibility to infection; poor wound healing and skin disorders.
Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin function and repair.
Herbs such as calendula and echinacea can help to decrease inflammation and redness around the pimples.
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I hope this information has been helpful Yi Shun.
Take care and happy new year!
Kind regards,
My daughter has moderate acne and has been under the care of a dermatologist at the RNSH. She has tried the pill- raised her cholesterol too much- and antibiotics- caused an ulcerated oesophagus. Currently only on topical ointments. She is a swimmer, so I am wondering if the exposure to chlorine compounds mentioned in your article is making it worse- she trains 4-6 times a week for 2 hours.
Anonymous 31 Dec 2012
My condition are not really worst but I just had little pimples on my face so what vitamins should I take for it.
Anonymous 14 Dec 2012