This is the first part of a 3-part series about acne and my personal story on acne. I dedicate this entry to all acne-prone people out there. I write this lovingly and passionately for you.

Here are the 3 requirements for acne to exist:

#1:  P. Acne (Proprionibacterium Acne)

This is the bacteria that causes acne. It feeds on the oils in our skin.

#2:  Clogged Pore(s)

The clogged pore(s) may be caused by comedogenic ingredients. But there are also people like me who have acne-prone pores. This means that the skin cells around our hair follicles becomes sticky and fail to shed as intended. In short, our skins have skin-cell-turnover issues.

It could be a genetic condition. Some journals say that P. Acne, aside from feeding on sebum, also causes the skin cells around the hair follicle to stick together (called sticky cells).

#3:  Over-production of Skin Oils (Sebum)

More often than not, this is genetic (aaack). This could also be caused by a hormonal imbalance: could be genetic, stress-related, that time of the month, etc.

It’s important to know these 3 requirements because if you take one out of the equation, acne will NOT exist. Sounds easy but it’s not. I battled and still am battling with acne.

Basically the acne lifecycle is:
Skin over-produces sebum –> P. Acne swims in and eats sebum –> Sebum gets blocked inside the clogged pore –> The pore expands and expands until the pore-wall explodes –> P. Acne invades adjacent skin cells causing inflammation and sometimes: pus.

Here are important things I learned from knowing those 3 requisites and from years of battling with acne:

The first and most important to address is #3.

We can have the most advanced pore de-clogging product or the strongest of all antibiotic creams there is in the market. But if we don’t learn how to manage stress, eat well, and sleep well. All efforts seem futile. There was a time when just merely sleeping the same hour and the same duration each day seemed to have fixed most of my acne problems.

Treating acne takes time and patience.

Firstly, because products and drugs that treat acne take time to work. A good example is Tretinoin. It increases skin cell turnover, eliminating #2. Unfortunately, a week is not enough time for the skin to get to that point where it doesn’t have sticky cells anymore. The least it takes is 3 months (which is true in my experience).

Secondly, because there are pimples already starting to form underneath our skin waiting for their moment to shine. They will come out eventually even after we start acne treatment. We can’t keep them underneath our skin forever and wish that they never come out.

True, there are products that seem to work overnight. But experience with acne tells me that it solves only the inflammation part and not the root cause of the problem.

We can’t address only one of the three causes. It has to be at least 2 or all of the 3.

Solving only the clogged pore problem. Here, I’m not talking about clogged pores we get from cosmetics. I’m talking about acne-prone sticky-celled pores. If our plan of action is merely exfoliating ALONE, whether physical or chemical — it will not work, it DIDN’T work for me. Our pores are sticky-celled down to the hair follicles and it’s impossible to exfoliate down to that level — unless you want to scrub your skin to non-existence.

Solving only the bacteria problem. Bacteria has the tenacity of a cockroach. It doesn’t give up that easily. It will kind of ‘sleep’ after we wipe on antibiotics and if we stop treating a few days after, they come back with a vengeance. It’s as if they’ve become Super P. Acne Bacteria. I have read a few cases of people who ended up with worse acne when they treated themselves with antibiotics alone and stopped without a doctor’s advise.

Solving only the over-production of sebum problem. Of the three, solving this one alone can probably already solve our acne problem. BUT, of all three, this is the MOST difficult to solve because like me, you maybe genetically born with an oil factory operating 24×7 under your skin. Or, you have a serious hormonal imbalance problem causing your oil glands to go haywire.

If you were clinically diagnosed with hormonal imbalance issues, I can only say: consult with a doctor. That’s out of my league.

But, if you are more like me, your over-zealous oil gland condition is likely aggravated by the following (that could cause hormonal changes):

#1 Inability to manage stress well

#2 Erratic sleeping habits to a point where our sleeping habits can not even be considered a habit

#3 Unhealthy eating practices. This, I’m not too sure of. Some professionals argue that acne doesn’t have anything to do with food. But I believe it does, indirectly, because food affects our overall well-being.Fortunately, we can do something about these. But it will require big changes in our lifestyle and outlook in life (I’m still working on these things right now).

Having acne doesn’t mean we have poor hygiene

It doesn’t matter how often we wash our face. Washing the face can’t do anything against sticky cells and hormonal problems.

Recommended Reading:
Digital Doctor | What causes acne? | Illustration of how acne forms

These information came from months of researching and are already available online for free if you’re really keen on looking for it. I don’t claim that I discovered the 3 direct causes of acne.


Hi, I’m Rae and I am a scatterbrain. I am in my 30s and I write in this blog from the Philippines. I spend a tiny portion of my time de-stressing with makeup and skin care. Email: | Instagram: @scatterbraintures


  1. You can't release bacteria through exercise though :(  But it does help with over all well-being.

  2. Beauty Reductionista Reply

    Fascinating! I can't wait to read the rest of the series. I think acne contributes quite a bit to my rage issues.

  3. I think everyone has an acne prob.. lol but maybe for some its not that worse though.. lol as for me, I suggest that the natural way to beat zits is through exercise (since u release toxins through sweats) and by drinking lotsa water and eating fruits and vegies,. its the cheapest way i know.. lol but Belo Medical Group is <3 when it comes to solving probs like this

  4. wonderwoman45 Reply

    Oh, how I wish acne simply didn't exist…

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  5. This is such a helpful post. I've been suffering adult acne the past few months and it's gotten me down a lot. Reading this has been very helpful :) Looking forward to your next posts :)

  6. Julz, document your acne laser treatment sessions! Update us how it goes. Crossfingers. Acne can really be frustrating.

  7. Julie Ann Tolentino Reply

    True!! I've been in a constant battle with acne, all causes considered. I've grown tired of experimenting on over the counter treatments that doesn't work on me at all. This time, I finally decided to finish this fight through a series of acne laser treatment. The process targets the root cause of acne; the sebaceous gland. The laser shrinks the gland so that it won't produce as much sebum as it used to, and thus, chances of growing acne bacteria is dramatically lessened. The laser also targets the hyperpigmentation left by the previous acne attacks. I'm 2 out 10 sessions in my acne laser treatment. I learned the hard way, but hopefully, this will be the final battle. =) 

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