Acne Vulgaris and its types, symptoms, causes and treatments

Acne Vulgaris and its types, symptoms, causes and treatments
Published : May 15, 2024
Last Updated : May 17, 2024

What is Acne Vulgaris? 

Acne Vulgaris is a common form of acne characterized by a mixed outbreak of inflammatory and non-inflammatory skin lesions. Acne develops when the hair follicles become blocked with bacteria, dead skin cells, and skin oils. 

Acne Vulgaris is often linked to changes in your diet, hormones, stress, and family genetics. It can occur at any age but is more common among teens. However, it is easy to manage this skin disorder with over-the-counter treatments, lifestyle changes, and prescription acne medicines.

What are the types of Acne Vulgaris?

Acne usually refers to a variety of blemishes caused by the blockage of pores by dead skin cells and sebum. Breakouts can involve one or several other types of acne vulgaris, including:


Whiteheads are a non-inflammatory blemish called a closed comedone. They appear like small, raised, skin-colored, or white bumps. Whiteheads occur when skin cells and oils block a pore but remain below the skin.


Pustules, also called pimples, happen when bacteria within a blocked pore start causing an infection, along with inflammation and pus. 


Blackheads are a non-inflammatory blemish known as open comedones. They occur when the plug of skin cells and oils arises through a pore. Exposure to oxygen causes the plug to become black or dark brown.

Nodular acne 

Nodular acne is considered a severe form of acne that causes large bumps. These bumps are inflamed, hard, and painful to the touch. Beneath the surface of your skin, you can find a lot of pus.


When a blockage is caused due to an inflamed bump without pus, papules occur. Papules can further progress to pustules. 

Cystic acne 

Cystic acne happens when the nodule is large and soft due to the development of pus closer to the surface of the skin. People who have nodules and cysts are usually considered to be a more severe form of acne.

What are the symptoms of acne vulgaris? 

You can commonly find acne vulgaris on your back, face, chest, and shoulders. This condition is further categorized by the following signs & symptoms:

Mild acne 

Mild acne is when you suffer from less than 20 blackheads or whiteheads and less than 15 inflamed pimples and papules. 

Moderate acne 

Moderate acne is when you have 20 to 100 whiteheads/blackheads and 15 to 50 inflamed papules and pustules. You can also have almost five acne nodules while experiencing moderate acne. 

Serious acne 

When you have more than 100 whiteheads or blackheads, along with over 50 inflamed pustules and papules and over five acne nodules, you can also have significant scarring. 

What are the Causes of acne vulgaris?

There are several causes of acne vulgaris, which can worsen acne. Some of the significant causes of acne vulgaris include:


During puberty, male sex hormones such as androgens increase and start to trigger changes in the teenage body. During this change, oil-producing glands, the sebaceous glands, begin to secrete large amounts of sebum. These oils further capture dead skin cells on the skin's surface and block the pores. When more sebum is produced, the risk of acne vulgaris also increases.  

Almost 40% of women can experience acne vulgaris in their 40s due to hormonal changes, which are influenced by various conditions such as pregnancy, menstrual periods, birth control pills, PCOS, and thyroid medicines.


It is essential to understand that there is a strong link between the food you eat and the risk of acne breakouts. Food items with high glycemic index promote acne. Such food items also raise your blood sugar, cause inflammation, and increase the production of sebum. 

Sugary foods, potatoes, processed foods, white bread, and white rice are some foods with high glycemic index (GI)


Certain skincare products lead to acne as they block pores and strip away oils, obstructing bacteria from entering follicles. To avoid acne vulgaris, you must avoid using skin care products such as alcohol-based toners, harsh cleansers or soaps, oil-based cosmetics, astringents, and oil-based cosmetics. 


Several medicines can affect hormones, which influence the production of sebum. When treatment with certain medications is stopped, acne vulgaris can occur, and hormone levels can become imbalanced.

Some medicines that cause Acne vulgaris include oral contraceptives, testosterone, anti-tuberculosis drugs, contraceptive injections, and anabolic steroids. 

Treatment of acne vulgaris 

Depending on the severity of your acne vulgaris, a doctor or healthcare provider can prescribe you the appropriate treatment. Several lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of acne vulgaris. Make sure to get plenty of rest to decrease cortisol levels. You should avoid over-cleansing your skin with harsh soaps or cleansers. 

Different acne medicines can be used alone or in combination to treat acne vulgaris. Some of the most common medications for acne treatment include:

Benzoyl Peroxide:

As an anti-acne agent, Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and also prevents pores from getting clogged. It is available in various strengths and forms, such as washes, creams, and gels. You may buy these products over the counter or on a prescription. 

Salicylic Acid:

Salicylic acid is available over-the-counter or as a prescription topical medicine. It helps to keep pores from clogging and removes dead skin cells to treat acne. 

Azelaic Acid:

Azelaic acid is a prescription medicine available as a gel or cream that kills bacteria that cause acne. It also reduces pores' clogging, and it is safe during pregnancy.  


Certain antibiotics may help treat acne as they have anti-inflammatory properties and kill the bacteria that cause acne. Antibiotic medicines can help with inflammatory acne lesions and clear affected skin areas. Doctors often prescribe topical lotions, gels, and oral antibiotics to reduce acne-causing bacteria. Some of the most commonly used antibiotics include minocycline, erythromycin, clindamycin, doxycycline, and sacrecycline. Use antibiotics for acne treatment only when your dermatologist prescribes them for your condition. 

Topical Retinoids:

Topical Retinoids are a class of medications derived from vitamin A that help treat various skin conditions, including acne. Tretinoin (Retin-A) is the most common topical retinoids prescribed by experts for acne treatment. Topical Retinoids can help reduce pigment alterations and also clear acne scars. 

Oral Isotretinoin:

Oral retinoid or Isotretinoin is usually used for severe acne, especially in cases of scarring or acne that does not respond to other therapies. It is particularly effective in treating cystic and nodular acne.

Hormonal Therapy:

Women with hormonal imbalances may experience acne, and hormonal therapy can be beneficial in such cases. Reducing levels of androgens with oral spironolactone may help treat acne.

Steroid Injections:

To treat severe acne vulgaris, doctors sometimes suggest injecting corticosteroids into the acne nodules and cysts. Injecting corticosteroids helps reduce acne inflammation. Acne scars are then treated with a variety of techniques, such as laser therapy, dermabrasion, chemical peels, fillers, and microneedling.

If you do not respond to medicines, your doctor might recommend procedures to treat moderate to severe acne. Some common methods include chemical peels, drainage, and extractions. 

Lifestyle modifications

Some lifestyle changes can also help in recovering from acne Vulgaris and make treatment more effective. Here are some skincare habits that you may include in your routine:

  • Wash the affected skin with a gentle soap, but not more than twice a day. Take proper care of your hygiene.
  • Use non-comedogenic skincare products such as moisturizers, sunscreens, and makeup. These products will not clog skin pores and are, therefore, less likely to contribute to acne. 
  • Avoid using abrasive cleansers and scrubs as they may irritate your skin or cause damage to the skin.


Acne vulgaris is a common form of acne that various factors, such as stress, family genetics, hormones, improper skin care, medicines, and diet, can cause. Therefore, with the correct diagnosis, it is easy to deal with acne vulgaris and enjoy glowing, radiant skin.