What is acne?
Acne is a skin condition experienced by nearly all adults at some stage in their lives to varying degrees of severity. Pus-filled lumps, commonly referred to as pimples, appear on the surface of the skin as a result of a blocked up hair follicle (or pore). Sebum, the oil naturally produced by skin, becomes trapped in the follicle and bacteria begin to grow, causing inflammation and producing pus.
Pimples take on many different forms, as listed by acne.org, including:
- Whiteheads – sebum and oil remain under the skin and white spots appear on the surface
- Blackheads are formed when a pore opens up at the surface and the exposed sebum turns a darker colour
- Papules form when folicle walls break and are infiltrated by white blood cells, thus becoming inflamed. They usually appear as pink bumps
- Pustules (most often called ’zits’ or ’pimples’) are developed papules. White blood cells rise to the skin’s surface and form bumps red at the base with a white head
- Nodules occur when the folicle collapses along the bottom, causing a large, often painful, lump to form on the surface
- Cysts are larger and more inflamed nodules. These can easily lead to scarring
What causes it and who gets it?
Though the exact cause is unclear, experts have found a link between acne and a hormone called androgen. Levels of androgen rise during puberty and stimulate the growth of oil glands under the skin, Medical News Today reports. The excess sebum causes pores to block up and become inflamed. This is thought to be why acne is most prevalent in people between the ages of 11 and 30. The condition affects both men and women, though the former are more likely to experience longer lasting and more severe bouts, according to Skincare Physicians.
What treatments are there?
Though acne often goes away on its own, there are many different types of medication to treat more severe and persistent cases including antibiotics and retinoids. Milder bouts are most commonly treated with benzoyl peroxide, which kills bacteria and slows down oil production.
The contraceptive pill has also been known to help women against acne as it balances out hormone levels.
There are ways of diminishing the risk of getting pimples in non-severe cases. Medical News Today offers certain guidelines:
- Use a mild facewash or lotion, preferably containing benzoyl peroxide, to cleanse your face no more than twice daily and avoid scrubbing
- Don’t burst pimples, as this can cause scarring and further inflamation
- Try not to touch your face with you hands and make sure they’re clean if you do
- Always remove make-up before bed, as this can clog up pores
- Shave very carefully to avoid irritation and infection