What is Acne?

Dermatologists Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields know that genetics, hormone levels, and stress can spike acne at any age. Acne occurs when sebum and dead skin cells block or clog pores, creating an environment where oxygen cannot get into the pore and bacteria can quickly reproduce becoming active.  Historically Acne has been viewed as a bacterial disease where if you had acne causing bacteria you were going to get acne. BUT, it turns out, everyone has the bacteria that could potentially cause acne whether you breakout or not.


Think of your skin as being made up of many micro-environments or microbiomes that require good and bad bacteria to function. As long as the good to bad bacteria are balanced, your microbiome is balanced, and skin stays beautiful and healthy.


But, when your hormones fluctuate it can cause an increase in oil production that combines with dirt and dead skin cells to block your pores.  Once that pore gets blocked it causes a decrease in the amount of oxygen into the skin which causes a surge in bad bacteria, throwing your microbiome out of whack.  This imbalance causes your skin to react with inflammation, triggering the start of the acne cycle and the formation of acne beneath the surface of your skin.

The result is inflammation and infection that leads to various levels of acne severity based on one’s unique skin.


Acne can take many forms such as:

  • Blackheads – clogged pore that is open (open comedone) to the air and the oil becomes oxidized (causing it to turn “grey to black” or dark in appearance)
  • Whiteheads – clogged pore that is closed with skin cells covering (closed comedone in a non-oxidized/anaerobic environment)
  • Papules and pustules (raised, red/yellow bumps) – closed, clogged pores where bacteria has entered and inflammation results and begins to spread
  • Nodules (larger, deeper bumps) – closed, clogged pores where bacteria proliferates and inflammation is present
  • Cystic acne (large, red, painful bumps that often spread; also, very deep in skin) – closed, clogged pores where bacteria proliferates and inflammation forms and often spreads