by Kimberly Allen, RN
Acne is a condition that affects the skin. In the US, approximately 50 million people suffer with this skin condition. Estimates are that worldwide over 650 million people are affected by acne. Acne most commonly affects teens due to the hormonal changes that occur during puberty. For the same reason, many women as well as girls, develop acne a few days before they start their period. Pregnant women are also prone to acne due to the hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy. There are also certain medications that can cause the development of acne like those that contain androgen’s and corticosteroids. There are also other factors that can promote the development of acne like putting greasy or oily stuff on your skin including certain cosmetics. People that frequently have phones and cell phones pressed against their skin, wear helmets or backpacks increase their chances of developing acne. though stress does not cause acne it can make your acne worse.
Usually acne develops on your face and neck as well as the shoulders, chest and back because these areas have the majority of active oil glands. Acne develops because your hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells, oil and bacteria. Our hair follicles are connected to whats called sebaceous glands. These glands produce a substance called sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that lubricates your skin and hair. Normally sebum travels upward along the hair shafts, out through the opening in the hair shafts and out onto the surface of your skin. If your body produces too much sebum it can build up with dead skin cells in your hair follicles. This causes a soft plug to form creating a breeding ground for bacteria.
There are different types of lesions that can form. Non-inflammatory lesions which are blackheads and whiteheads, these are called comedones. The blackheads are comedones that are open on the skin surface. It is due to the dark color of the plugs in your hair follicles. The whiteheads are comedones that are closed and just under the skin surface. They are slightly raised bumps that are skin colored. Then there are the inflammatory lesions. Inflammatory lesions include papules which are small raised bumps that are red and tender indicating infection or inflammation and pustules or pimples are small bumps with white pus at the top. Nodules are painful lumps that are large and solid. They form because of a build up of sebum and dead skin cells deep in the hair follicle. Then there are the cysts. These are large painful bumps that are similar to boils. they are filled with pus and bacteria. This type can cause scarring.
There are a variety if treatments available for acne on the market today. Some are available without a prescription while others require a prescription. There are a variety of over the counter lotions that contain benzol peroxide, resorcinol, sulfur or salicylic acid that helps to dry the oil and kill bacteria while promoting the shedding of dead skin cells. Should your acne be severe and unresponsive to over the counter treatments there are prescription lotions available through your doctor. Frequently for severe acne your doctor may recommend a combination of products. Some people also require antibiotics or Isotretinoin especially for cysts.
You may not be able to prevent all acne from developing, however, you can prevent a lot of break outs by washing acne prone areas twice a day using a gentle cleanser. It’s important to avoid washing too much as that can irritate your skin. Avoid heavy make up, use powder cosmetics instead of creams as they are less irritating and always remove all make up before going to bed. As oil and sweat can trap bacteria and dirt always shower after exercising or strenuous activity.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.