What causes pimples: Types, triggers, remedies & foods.

We have all been in a position where along with something important, be it a date, an occasion or an important meeting, a breakout pops up too! Acne has always been an uninvited guest and the most asked question is how to get rid of acne? Acne is the most common skin condition around the globe. Your skin has tiny pores or hair follicles and when these pores become clogged with sebum (skin’s natural oil), dead skin, bacteria and dirt the formation of pimples takes place. Apart from this, there are many reasons that causes pimples.

And if your skin is frequently affected by this condition then it results in the formation of acne. It appears especially on the face, forehead, neck, upper arms, shoulders, back and chest because those areas have the most sebaceous glands.

Acne normally occurs at the puberty age as the sebaceous glands activate but nowadays adult acne also seems to be prominent. (How to treat your kids acne?) There can be many reasons behind this sudden change including unhealthy diet- junk foods, deep fried eatables, heavy make-up (which clogs the pores of the skin), hormonal imbalance (which enables production of excess sebum), release of stress hormones, bacterial infection and inflammation. (Foods to manage hormone imbalance)

Types of acne:

Acne pimples differ in size, colour, area and level of pain. These are few possible types of acne that are seen –

Whiteheads: These are small, stay under the skin and produce white bumps.

Blackheads: These reach the surface of the skin and open up and are clearly visible. These turn black when exposed to air.

Papules: Very Small, usually pink bumps, tender and appear on the skin.

Pustules: Clearly noticeable on the surface of the skin. They are red at their base and are topped with white or yellow pus.

Nodules: Prominently noticeable. They are large, solid, painful pimples that are embedded deep in the skin.

Cysts: Very large, visible, painful and filled with pus. Cysts can cause scars.

Factors that causes pimples:

Factors responsible for the cause of acne are –

  • Excess oil (sebum) production
  • Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells
  • Bacteria
  • Inflammation.
What triggers acne?

There are certain things that are said to trigger or worsen acne. It maybe your lifestyle or the genetics that causes pimples to grow.

Diet: Your skin reflects what you eat. Certain foods including refined carbohydrates, high calorie food, fats and junk food affects the skin. Uneven eating habits can also trigger acne.

Hormonal changes. Androgens, a hormone which rises in the puberty stage, cause the sebaceous gland to enlarge and produce more sebum. Also, the hormonal changes during pregnancy and menstruation cause the breakouts. The midlife hormonal changes due to the living pattern also causes pimples in the adults. (How can foods help in menstruation issues?)

Genetics: The genetics also trigger the acne. If the parents or ancestors had an issue of acne, the proceeding will face that.

Medications: Certain medications can trigger acne. Usually, the drugs contain steroids effects. Other than this, any reaction to the drug also induces this.

Stress: Stress can be a cause of pimple but if you already have acne, stress may make it worse.

Cosmetic products: Cosmetic products can cause pimple. Some greasy or oily cosmetic products trigger acne.

Friction: Friction or pressure on the skin where the pimple is already there can make it worse or even inflammation can occur.

Remedies for acne:

Here are a few remedies mentioned below. Make sure you try a patch test to check the suitability of the ingredients.


Improper diet causes pimples. It’s the simplest remedy. Just take care of what you eat! Consuming healthy food which is rich in vitamin A, vitamin E and minerals like zinc, iron can help to prevent acne. Also, make sure your eating pattern is not uneven, Moreover, try to cut off high glycemic index foods. Go for dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits. Drink plenty of water. (How to absorb vitamin A from food?)

Spot with Essential Oil:

Spotting with Tea tree oil is an effective remedy against acne. Tea tree oil has the ability to fight bacteria and reduce inflammation. Any essential oil MUST be diluted with carrier oil before use. Combine 1-2 drops of tea tree oil with the carrier oil. Dip the swab of cotton and apply on the affected area. Repeat this 1-2 times a day for better results. If needed, apply moisturizer. Other essential oils like lavender, rose, clove, cinnamon can also be used.

Green Tea:

Green tea contains polyphenols, flavonoids and tannins that fights against inflammation. It also has antioxidant properties. Steep green tea leaves in Boiling water for a few minutes. Once cooled, apply it on the face with a cotton swab or spray it through a bottle. Leave it overnight and later rinse it with water. (Why do we need antioxidants?)

Aloe Vera:

Aloe Vera fights bacteria and promotes wound healing too. It helps soothe the acne too. Scrap the gel and apply it to your face. Massage gently. Keep it for 30 mins and rinse normally. (How can Aloe Vera help to treat pigmentation?)

Apple cider vinegar:

It contains organic acid that has effects on inhibiting the bacteria on the skin. Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar and 3 parts waters (use more water for sensitive skin). Apply with a cotton swab on the affected area. Rest it for 30 secs and rinse it. Repeat once or twice a day.

Honey and cinnamon mask:

Honey and cinnamon have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Mix honey and cinnamon (2:1) and form a paste. After cleansing the face, apply for 5-10 minutes and rinse off. Pat dry.

Prevention and management tips can help to get rid of acne

Here are few prevention and management tips for acne prone skin:

  • Wash your face no more than twice each day
  • Avoid popping pimples
  • Refrain from touching the face
  • Clean spectacles regularly as they collect sebum and skin residue.
  • Choose makeup for sensitive skin and avoid oil-based products.
  • Remove makeup before sleeping
  • Keep hair clean
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure
  • Avoid anxiety and stress
  • Apply topical treatments
  • Cut back on foods linked to acne
  • Wear sunscreen when going outdoors
  • Avoid skincare products that contain oil
  • Keep facial care products clean
Foods to get rid of acne

Studies suggest that following a healthy diet can help to cure acne in children as well as in adults. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates, zinc, vitamin A and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are effective in reducing pimples on children’s face.

Complex Carbohydrates:

Having whole grains and less of processed food and flours reduces risk of developing acne in children. A quick look at the food label GI index can reduce chances of getting pimples on children’s faces. High GI index indicates the food is processed and causes pimples. Rich sources of complex carbs are whole grains, legumes and whole fruits and vegetables. (Importance of nutritional diet)


Studies support the fact that eating foods rich in zinc may be useful in preventing and treating acne by decreasing the production of oil in the skin. Researchers believe that zinc shields the body cells from any external bacterial or viral attack on them. It is easy to include zinc as a part of a varied diet. Dairy products, nuts, pumpkin seeds, lentils are good sources of zinc. (Health benefits of pumpkin seeds)

Vitamin A:

Vitamin A acts as antioxidant and fights free radicals. This helps to slow down cell ageing and keeps skin looking younger. Vitamin A plays an important role in helping new cells grow and stay healthy by healing acne and scars. Foods rich in vitamin A which can help in preventing acne in children are yellow/ orange pigment plants such as carrots, sweet potatoes and green pigment plant food like spinach, broccoli. (Foods that can help to overcome vitamin A deficiency)

Vitamin E:

This is also used as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. As vitamin E oil is a fat soluble vitamin, it allows for quick absorption into skin sebum to heal pimples on children’s faces and also reduce scars. It also helps the skin to lock moisture and promotes the production of collagen which strengthens the skin and may help with skin elasticity and hydration. All nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and sunflower seeds, corn, olives, avocado, soybean, fortified cereals are considered as foods high in vitamin E. (How to get smooth glowing skin?)

Omega-3 fatty acids:

They can regulate the skin oil production and improve balanced hydration. A diet rich in omega-3 may help to prevent or reduce the causes of pimples. It reduces inflammation on the skin too, which research states, may positively result in reduction of acne in children. Flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans and fish like salmon, tuna, sardines are rich sources of this fat. (Benefits of omega 3 fatty acids)

Face Mask for acne:

Here’s a simple natural ingredient mask that helps.


  • Aloe Vera
  • Tea tree oil
  • Turmeric
  • Honey

How to use: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl properly. Apply on the affected area for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with water. Pat dry.

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