Acne is a skin condition affecting the skin on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, and back. Be it blemishes, zits, or spots, acne is unsightly and at times it can be a painful nuisance to the person suffering from it. This skin condition is commonly seen in teens but can also affect adults. Acne affects roughly around 50 million people annually in the United States.
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What Causes Acne?
To keep the hair and skin well lubricated, the body depends on sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum which prevents the skin and hair from drying out. The sebum travels up the hair follicles and oozes out of the pores, landing on the surface of the skin. Dead skin cells are routinely shed by the hair follicles which are then carried out of the body by the sebum. When extra sebum is produced, the dead skin cells clog the pores which results in blemishes. The small amounts of bacteria present in the sebum start to flourish in the clogged pore thus, leading to inflammation. Hormonal changes especially the rise in testosterone, lead to sebum overproduction which is why acne often affects teens the most. However, this condition can happen at any age. Bacteria, certain medications, or genetics are some of the factors that contribute to the development of acne.
Types of Acne
- Blackheads: Blackheads are closed follicles that are darker in color, occurring when the clog is exposed to air. The spots are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle produces pigmentation.
- Whiteheads: Depending on the location of the clog, acne may appear as whiteheads — which are clogged follicles closed off from the air. They may be firmer and do not ooze out easily when squeezed.
- Papules: These may be sore bumps protruding out of the skin. The inflamed bumps might also get tender.
- Pustules: These are inflamed, sore bumps as well but, a white tip is seen at the center. This is caused by pus accumulation.
- Nodules: Nodules are large, hard, and painful lumps that are found deep under the skin.
- Cysts: Cysts are the severe kind of acne that look like boils, are filled with pus, and can cause permanent scarring of the skin.
Treatment of Acne
For mild acne, usually, doctors recommend a lotion that may contain Benzoyl Peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria and removes dead skin cells clogging pores. Acne products that contain salicylic acid are available for people to use without a prescription. Salicylic acid is an ingredient in many face wash products or creams in concentrations between 0.5% to 2%. Salicylic acid slows down the shedding of skin cells to prevent clogged pores. It breaks down white and blackheads. Lactic acid removes dead skin cells, reduces inflammation, and stimulates the growth of new smooth skin. Sulfur removes dead skin cells and dries excess oil.
If over the counter drugs do not work, then a dermatologist may prescribe prescription medicines like:
- Vitamin A
- Topical Antibiotics
- Combination of benzoyl peroxide and topical antibiotics
- For severe acne, sometimes the doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics or a combination of oral antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide. Isotretinoin is used only for the most severe cases. Corticosteroid injections are given to cope with pain and clear up a large lesion.
- In the case of women, birth control pills containing estrogen may be prescribed to minimize the effects of testosterone.
Tips To Prevent Acne
- Wash problems areas twice daily with a mild soap.
- Wash gently without scrubbing.
- If your skin is dry, then use an oil-free, water-based moisturizer.
- Always look for skin products that are oil-free or non-comedogenic — meaning they won’t clog the pores.
- Avoid picking or squeezing the blemishes, these might lead to infection or scarring.
- Is acne genetic? Yes, if one of your parents has had deep, painful acne you are at risk of getting it at some point in your life.
- At what age can you get acne and do adults get it too? Acne is common in adolescents and young adults. The symptoms start showing between the ages of 10–13. Yes, adults do get acne and they can be in their 30’s, 40’s, or even 50’s. Women suffer from acne more than men.
- What foods might cause an acne breakout? Usually, the primary trigger for acne is hormone stimulation and an excess of sebum production. Some research suggests that dairy products, like cheese and butter, might increase acne but, more research needs to be done on the matter.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!