What is Acne?

Acne is a disorder of the hair follicle or pore and generally appears as pimples, zits, whiteheads and blackheads. Some doctors call it a chronic inflammatory disorder of the skin. Acne vulgaris, present in large numbers in America, is a disorder and its degrees vary from mild to severe. It is a common skin condition marked by the eruption of pimples or pustules, especially on the face. Apart from the face, acne normally appears on the face, neck, chest and back, and in some cases on the upper arms of people. Areas of the skin with the largest number of oil glands are most susceptible to acne development. For example, it is estimated that there are 2,000 oil glands per square inch on the forehead alone. Next to this, the face, chest, shoulders, and back are the areas with the highest population of oil glands.

Who suffers from acne?

Acne is most common in teenagers, preteens and sometimes adults. 3 out of 4 teens in America suffer from acne. Not just this, acne affects both girls and boys, but it is more severe in boys and stays for a longer time.

How does it develop?

Acne develops when oil and dead skin cells become trapped in the hair follicle. This leads to a plug within the pore. This plug of dead cells and oil is medically called a comedo. Blackheads and whiteheads are non-inflamed comedones. When the plug breaks out, bacteria attack it, and it turns red in color. This is the reason for the redness associated with acne. Inflamed scars vary depending upon the severity of acne; very severe infections create bigger and more striking scars and lesions.

What is the cause for acne?

Acne is caused by the coming together of a cluster of factors. People who have oily skin are more prone to acne than others. Excess oil can get trapped inside a pore, creating acne. People prone to acne also have more dead skin that does not shed properly, medically this condition is known as retention hyperkeratosis. Most of these dead cells stick to the surface of the skin and inside the follicles, mixing with excess oil and finally leading to the creation of comedos.

Why does acne occur?

  • Acne is caused by androgen hormones that surge during puberty. In men, androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands, creating an oilier complexion that is more prone to acne. Women also see a lot of hormone fluctuation during pregnancy, menopause, menstruation and pre-menopause. During these phases, there are more chances for women to develop acne.
  • In addition to these natural conditions that are out of human control, oily cosmetics, comedogenic skin and hair products, medicines such as steroids and estrogen drugs can cause acne.
  • Acne is also a genetic disorder. If your parents had acne, chances of you getting acne are more.

Acne cures

Mild acne can be treated with home products and benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. For severe acne that cannot be treated at home, it is always best to consult a dermatologist.

Consult your dermatologist if you encounter any of these:

  • Nodules and cysts or other severe forms of acne
  • Scarring due to acne
  • Acne persisting despite good home care
  • Birth control pills leading to acne breakouts
  • Side effects due to medication leading to acne
  • Depression about acne and bad skin that makes you avoid social events

Though acne can be cured with ointments and primary medication, surgery may also be required in some severe cases.

Fast Facts about acne

  • In most people, acne persists for a period of three to four years.  In some of cases, acne can continue for 8-12 years.
  • In few people, acne can also persist between the ages of 25 and 40.
  • In women, acne may not occur until 25 years of age.
  • In 70% of the cases, women will notice a surge in acne before their menstrual period, perhaps due to an increase of androgens. Androgens are steroid hormones responsible for the development and maintenance of male physical characteristics.
  • Women with a lot of body or facial hair, and those who have irregular periods, may be at increased risk of acne. These women should have their hormone levels evaluated by their family physician.
  • Men are more prone to severe acne because they produce more of the male hormones that stimulate acne formation.
  • In some jobs, exposure to industrial products like cutting oils may produce acne.

Tips to treat acne

  • Both men and women should clean skin at regular intervals. Use a mild cleanser in the morning, evening, and after heavy workouts.
  • Scrubbing vigorously does not stop acne. It can even make the problem worse.
  • If you have pimples, try not to touch your skin. People who squeeze, pinch, or pick their pimples can get scars or dark spots on their skin.
  • For men, they should shave carefully. If you shave, you can try both electric and safety razors to see which works best. With safety razors, use a sharp blade. Also, it helps to soften your beard with soap and water before putting on shaving cream. Shave lightly and only when you have to.
  • Both men and women should stay out of the sun. Many acne medicines can make people more likely to sunburn. Being in the sun a lot can also make skin wrinkle and raise the risk of skin cancer.
  • Women should choose makeup carefully. All makeup should be oil free. Look for the word ‘‘non-comedogenic’’ on the label. This means that the makeup will not clog up your pores. But some people still get acne even if they use these products. There are many cosmetic brands listed as “water-based” or “oil-free” and are generally better choices for protection from acne.
  • Both men and women should shampoo their hair regularly. If your hair is oily, you should shampoo daily.

Acne Prevention

  • Rosacea, folliculitis, pseudofolliculitis, white heads and black heads are some other forms of acne. Acne prevention can be achieved with diligent care and attention to detail.
  • The prevention of acne revolves around unclogging pores, killing bacteria and minimizing oil.
  • In addition to this, moderation and having a routine are essential if you want to treat acne.
  • You must use skin cleansing lotions that will open the pores of your skin.
  • Use exfoliating skin masks and cleansers. Retinol is a good agent, derived from Vitamin A that will help your skin exfoliate.
  • Antibacterial cleansers like benzoyl peroxide are good to keep bacteria away. Benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and resorcinol go a long way in surface cleansing.