What Is Acne?
Acne (Or Acne Vulgaris as it is medically known) is an extremely common skin disease that affects the oil glands at the base of the hair follicles.
It is generally experienced during puberty when the sebaceous glands are stimulated by the male hormone testosterone which both males and females produce.
The word Acne (or ‘Akme’ as it was originally spelt) is Greek in origin and means “spot” or “point”.
Acne doesn’t discriminate – It can affect men and women and persist well into your 20’s, 30’s and beyond.
The pores of our skin are connected to oil glands underneath the skin. These oil glands are connected to our pores through the follicles. The glands secrete an oily fluid known as sebum.
Sebum’s job is to carry the dead skin cells through the follicles to the skin’s surface, when these follicles get blocked this is when the sebum begins to accumulate and spots and pimples begin to form.
While acne can be a ‘phase’ for some individuals, it is quite often a chronic condition that lasts for many years.
What Are The Causes Of Acne?
There are a number of myths surrounding the true cause of acne — most of them untrue. For example, that eating chocolate causes acne.
Though the true cause of why acne develops has not been determined.
Some experts believe that a hormone called an androgen is responsible for causing acne.
Androgens multiply very rapidly during adolescence, which causes the growth of the oil glands making them overproduce sebum. This breaks down cellular walls in the pores and causes an overgrowth of a bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).*
Read more about the possible causes of acne*
This bacteria is naturally found on the skin and in healthy hair follicles, in normal amounts it doesn’t usually present any effects but in some individuals it can multiply to such an extent that it can result in acne.
Other possible causes include genetics, if you have a parent who suffered or suffers from acne, there is a strong possibility you will too.
Some women find during pregnancy due to the spike in hormone levels that they develop acne, even if they had no history of it occurring before.
Certain medications can cause acne as a side effect, particularly steroids, including anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders.
Other factors for an acne flare up include during a woman’s menstrual cycle, oil-based cosmetics and very humid conditions.
Who Gets Acne?
It’s always thought to be a teenage affiliction, but many adults suffer from acne. It affects all races and nationalities and can occur at any time.
Kinds Of Spots/Pimples
Blackheads And Whiteheads
A blackhead (otherwise known as an open comedone) is simply, a widened hair follicle that has become filled with skin debris (keratin squamae), oil and bacteria.
Blackheads are characterised by their (normally) black appearance though they can also be yellow in colour. A common misconception is that blackheads are essentially dirt, but in actual fact, Sebum is what gives the blackhead its dark appearance due to the melanin it contains becoming oxidised. (Being exposed to air).
A whitehead is a closed comedone. Unlike a blackhead, it forms underneath the surface of a closed pore and has a white appearance. They are the result of a build up of oil and bacteria in the hair follicles but with a such a tiny opening to the skin surface that oxygen cannot reach the follicle so it is unable to be oxidised, which is why it is white, instead of black.
A pustule is an acne lesion that has become pink, red or inflamed with a collection of pus, oil and cell debris which gives it the appearance of a white pimple or head at the top.
Pustules are a result of a break in the follicle wall, this allows white blood cells to enter and multiply resulting in pus becoming formed.
These kind of acne lesions are not only painful and unsightly, they can cause permanent scarring and do require urgent medical treatment.
Can Acne Be Cured?
There is no ‘cure’ as such as acne. But there are many ways to control the breakouts, some patients go into remission from acne and stay acne-free for many years, sometimes indefinitely. There are many treatments for mild to severe acne. Ranging from topical treatments that you can purchase over the counter to prescription strength, that come in a wide array of tablets, creams, and gels. As well as treatments such as laser therapy and chemical peels. So even if you have had no success in treating your acne before – don’t panic!
There is a solution out there that’s suitable for you.