Acne is a condition of the hair follicles and their associated sebaceous glands and is the most common skin disorder in the U.S. Acne is often thought of as a teenage condition, but as most of us know, it is not exclusive to that age bracket. Children, teenagers and adults experience some form of this skin condition.
The first stage of any type of acne is an enlarged and plugged hair follicle. The follicle is clogged with accumulated skin cells and oils that have not reached the skin's surface. This is called a closed comedone, or "whitehead". Once the follicle has been opened and the blockage reaches the surface, the debris oxidizes and turns black, resulting in a "blackhead".
The second stage of acne is when the follicle becomes inflamed due to bacteria being introduced to the follicle. This bacteria feeds off of the sebum and skin cells that have accumulated in the follicle and can result in the development of a Papule (inflamed, swollen, itchy bump). White blood cells enter the picture here and begin a war with bacteria, which can result in a pus filled bump called a Pustule or Nodulocystic bumps (multiple deep, painful, pus-filled lesions).
The best way to prevent and control acne is to be proactive with your skin care routine. Proper cleansing should include not only washing away surface dirt and makeup, but also exfoliating the dead skin cells that promote acne bacteria. If you have naturally oily skin, you need to be especially diligent about cleansing and exfoliating daily due to the fact that excess oils create a sticky environment in the hair follicles which makes them extra prone to becoming clogged. Try to avoid most bar soaps, in general, as they generally strip the skin of its acid mantle barrier, which creates a signal to the skin to produce more sebum. Instead, cleanse skin with well-balanced products, loofahs, or brushing.
A big culprit that I have seen in chronic, cystic acne is the over-consumption of dairy products (or consuming too many dairy products in childhood). Try consuming moderate amounts of dairy, and up your intake of purifying and astringent foods such as apples, pears, and cranberries. Spice up your life with ginger, pepper, cayenne, and black mustard to keep a healthy blood flow. Choose lean proteins like chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs. Cook with clarified butter (ghee) or coconut oil instead of other cooking oils, when possible. Additionally, drinking organic, green, black, or ginger tea every day is helpful. (Remember that herbal teas and dry herbs have a cumulative affect, the more regularly you consume them, the more benefit you will see.)