Acne is a skin condition that results from oil-secreting glands in the skin becoming clogged, inflamed and/or infected.
Medicine is not 100% sure about the underlying causes of acne. While it is largely a phenomenon of adolescence, 20% of all cases occur in adults. Acne affects both sexes, although teenage boys tend to have the most severe cases.
Practically, acne happens when sebaceous (oil-producing) glands, attached to hair follicle pores in your skin, become clogged and bacteria grows in the clogged pores.
Extra oil production in these glands usually happens around the time of puberty, probably in connection to hormone levels in the body.
A clogged hair follicle gradually enlarges, producing a bump. As the clogged pore enlarges, irritating substances and bacteria trapped within might access deeper layers of the skin, ultimately producing inflammation and infection. There are moderate to severe levels of acne.
What are the symptoms?
Acne is most common on the face, but can also occur on the chest, back and shoulders. Acne can sometimes be tender and/or painful to the touch. Acne can take the form of:
– Whiteheads: Closed clogged oil glands with sebum trapped under the surface
– Blackheads: Open clogged oil glands (oil appears black when exposed to air, this is NOT dirt)
– Pustules: Inflamed, infected clogged oil glands, sometimes filled with pus
– Cysts: An extreme form of infected, fluid-filled oil glands, reaching into deeper layers of the skin
How is it treated?
Acne treatments combine medicinal solutions for clearing up and preventing pimples, as well as best practices for a patient’s daily hygiene. There are many different types of treatments that work in different ways. A dermatologist or pharmacist will know which is best for a patient, depending on the type and severity of his or her acne.
Topical acne treatments
There are many prescription and over-the-counter gels, lotions, and creams used to treat acne.
– Benzoyl peroxide: This very common medicine kills bacteria, reduces inflammation and unplugs clogged pores. It is available both as a prescription medicine and as part of many commercial products. There are different strengths available and it can potentially irritate skin.
– Retinoids: Creams that unclog blocked pores and reduce inflammation. These treatments (adapalene, tretinoin – “Retin-A”, and isotretinoin – “Accutane”) are only available with a doctor’s prescription.
– Topical antibiotics: These treatments are aimed at reducing bacteria in the skin but not necessarily unclogging pores. These are given with a prescription.
Antibiotic pills kill the bacteria that causes acne, reducing inflammation but not unclogging pores. Therefore, these are often combined with topical treatments. Be careful with acne-fighting antibiotics if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or intend to become pregnant.
Tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar are both often used as topical acne treatments.
Do you have questions about acne? Can you recommend treatments that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below…