Acne. It’s not just a teenage curse. Some people are haunted by acne their entire lives, some people never get so much as a single pimple. It’s estimated that any point in time more than 50 million Americans are struggling to deal with acne. That’s a whole bunch of spots. It’s the most common dermatological problem in the world and that means that while it’s not always easy to tackle – we know more about acne than almost any other skin condition too. So here’s what everyone ought to know about acne:
Acne is A Problem Caused by Two Things
Acne is caused by the build of oil or hair cells which stop oil flowing through the pores of the skin. It’s found in the pilosebaceous unit of hair follicles and oil glands. When the pore gets blocked; it becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. The bacteria which grow there are called P. acnes. It’s the inflammation caused by a bacterial infection of the pore that turns into zits.
Acne Comes in Many Different Forms
The two most common kinds of acne are also the least severe; whiteheads and blackheads. These display as bumps on the skin which show that a pore is blocked. However, there are worse forms of acne than blackheads and whiteheads – when the pore gets badly infected you can find yourself with papules (which are pink bumps), pustules (these are bumps which are full of pus and usually have a red-inflamed base) and cysts (which are the worst – these are deep, they’re painful and seriously full of pus).
Acne Begins in Teenage Years
For most people, acne first shows up in the teenage years. You’re never the only kid in school with a few zits – they estimated that more than 80% of people suffer from some sort of acne in their youth. The bad news is that acne almost always gets worse before it gets better. For most people, however, it does get better and normally by the age of 24 or so – it becomes a very infrequent thing. However, women may find that they get outbreaks around the time of their periods thanks to the hormone transitions at that stage of the month.
Acne is a Hereditary Condition
There’s no way of telling exactly who will get acne and who won’t; at least nobody has yet identified a gene which is directly responsible for outbreaks of zits. But there’s a definite hereditary component and the more people in your family who have suffered from acne at some point in their lives; the more likely it is that you’ll suffer from acne too.
Acne Has Nothing to Do With Skin Type
While you might expect that people with oily skin would get more acne than people with dry skin; there’s no evidence that this is the case. Some folks with oily skin never get acne, some people with dry skin get so much acne that it’s just not fair. However, if you do get acne – then oily skin types may find that their acne is more severe than those with dry skin.
Acne Can Be Drug Related
It’s not just illegal drugs either, though heroin addicts do seem particularly prone to acne but prescribed medication can really trigger acne outbreaks too. People who are treated with steroids might suddenly find their acne getting worse. There’s also evidence that lithium, prescribed for certain mental disorders, and a range of anti-epileptic drugs can make things worse too. These drugs make acne problematic by triggering oil production in the sebaceous glands which makes them more likely to clog up the pores.
Acne Isn’t Triggered By Oily Foods
Eating oils doesn’t mean that you increase the secretion of oil in the sebaceous glands. So if you like a little butter on your toast; don’t worry about it – it’s not responsible for your acne. However, there is a link between oily foods and acne in one specific circumstance; that’s when you don’t wash your hands after eating it. If you wipe oils all over your face; it can help block pores and give you acne. So there’s another good reason to wash your hands after every meal.
Acne IS Triggered by Junk Food and Dairy
Dermatologists don’t know why junk food (that’s food laden with carbohydrates/sugars) or why dairy products increase the chances of getting acne. However, they’re able to demonstrate a clear correlation between consuming these products and getting acne. That means if you suspect that every time you shovel pizza and/or ice cream into your mouth that you’re getting an outbreak a day or so later… that it’s probably down to what you’re eating.
Acne IS Triggered by Stress
Stress is responsible for all sorts of unpleasant stuff in our bodies and it can even, in the worst cases, suppress the immune system or trigger a heart attack. A milder, at least from a non-teenage perspective, problem associated with stress is acne. Stress triggers chemical reactions in the skin and they can make acne appear or become worse.
Acne IS Triggered by Sweat
Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle but once you’ve finished exercising – it’s a good idea to wash your face. Sweat is a breeding ground for bacteria; when you sweat under your arms – it’s bacteria that gives you B.O. When you sweat on your face; those bacteria that like to get together and make zits? They breed like wildfire. Always give your face a gentle scrub after you’ve been sweating.
Acne Can Usually Be Treated With Over the Counter Remedies
While you may not have huge faith in over-the-counter products; the evidence is that for the majority of people over-the-counter acne treatments are very effective. However, they can take weeks (or even months) to deliver results – so you need to give them a long test drive before seeking help from a dermatologist.
Acne Shouldn’t Be Squeezed
Squeezing a zit is really, really temping but it’s a bad idea. It can lead to scarring and/or make your acne even more infected and make it worse.