Rodan + Fields / Blog / Skincare Guides

What Exactly is Acne?

Extreme close-up of young model

What is acne? Most people know acne as the annoying blemishes almost everyone has experienced at one time or another. What you may not know is that the pimple that appears on your face is actually the final step of a multiple-step process that Rodan + Fields founders Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields call the acne cycle. To break the cycle, it’s good to know what’s lurking beneath — and on top of — the surface.

It starts with your individual genetics and hormones, which control how much oil your skin produces. When oil production is excessive it mixes with dead skin cells to form a plug that clumps together in a pore. Trapped underneath this plug of debris, a type of bacteria found on skin called Propionibacterium acnes — P. acnes for short — begins to get busy. P. acnes thrives in environments that lack oxygen, like a clogged pore.

Happy inside its oxygen-free environment, the bacteria feeds on the oil and multiplies. Eventually, our skin reacts to the overgrowth of bacteria and its byproducts with inflammation or swelling, and voila: A pimple.

Many people think it’s the bacteria that is the main culprit, but without oil, oxygen would be able to get into the pore to kill the bacteria. And our hormones trigger the oil production. So all the steps are connected.

Since blemishes start forming days or even weeks before reaching the surface of the skin, the secret to controlling them is to keep them from forming in the first place. That means interrupting the acne cycle so the blemishes never get to the surface.


Early in their dermatology careers, Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields realized that though the acne cycle is complicated, the treatment didn’t have to be. Now, the Doctors have created two Rodan + Fields Regimens to break the acne cycle by unclogging pores, removing acne-causing bacteria and oil and preventing future breakouts. Both SPOTLESS, for teen and young adult acne, and UNBLEMISH, for adult acne and visible signs of aging, combine over-the-counter and cosmetic ingredients meant to be used twice a day over the entire face.

Both Regimens clear existing acne and prevent new blemishes from forming. The big news is the Doctors are bringing their effective acne solutions to even more people, perhaps you or someone you love.