Whether you're an adult or a teenager, you can be affected by acne. While following a regular skin care regime can help prevent you from getting a pimple, those annoying little bumps can still find their way onto your skin. So what can you do about them? And just where do they come from?
What is Acne?
Acne is a skin condition that causes clogged pores and pimples in 17 million Americans. Acne develops from the accumulation of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria in hair follicles on the skin. Acne usually appears on those areas of skin with the most oil glands: your face, neck, chest, back and shoulders.
People can develop acne throughout their life at any age, however acne usually occurs in adolescents at around the time of puberty. During puberty, boys and girls are undergoing hormonal changes that boost oil production in their pores that leads to acne. Women can also experience acne outbreaks before and during their period, with taking birth control pills or during pregnancy. Whether you develop mild or severe acne, your best option is to seek the guidance of a professional dermatologist.
Types of Acne
While all are frustrating, there are actually different types of acne that can affect you.
- Whiteheads form when a pore is clogged with oil and dead skin cells. They get their name because the peak is white in colour.
- Blackheads also form from a clogged pore but are not fully blocked on the skin's surface. Blackheads are dark in colour.
- Pimples occur when a pore's walls collapse and sebum, bacteria and dead skin get under the skin. Pimples usually appear pink or red.
- Cysts are obstructed pores buried deeply under the skin. Cystic acne is usually red and blotchy and is a more serious type of acne that requires professional treatment.
Causes of Acne
Acne can affect you for different reasons, including:
- Hormonal changes
- Wearing certain cosmetics or makeup
- Friction on the skin from caps, helmets or a backpack
Contrary to popular belief, the greasy foods and junk food do not contribute to acne. However, it is possible that certain foods may aggravate your acne. Once you identify these foods, avoiding them should reduce the number of breakouts you have.
When it comes to acne skin care, many dermatologists advise against scrubbing your face vigorously with a facecloth as this irritates your skin and can make acne worse. You should wash your face with your bare hands twice daily with a gentle cleanser. Avoid oil-based products to wash your face and look for labels that say "water-based" or "non-comedogenic". Never pick or squeeze your pimples as this will just make your acne worse and can lead to acne scars.
Depending on your type and severity of your acne, your doctor may prescribe topical creams, antiobiotics, Accutane, birth control medication or cosmetic surgery. These treatments work to decrease oil production, fight bacteria and renew your skin.
- Topical creams are used to kill bacteria in mild acne and usually contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, salicylic acid or lactic acid as their ingredients.
- Antibiotics are used for more severe acne and may be used in addition to topical products.
- Accutane is medication used for severe cystic acne and other forms of acne that need more powerful treatment. This drug must be monitored carefully because of the serious side effects associated with it. Some of the most common side effects are sun sensitivity, decreased vision at night and depressed mood. Women who are pregnant or are hoping to become pregnant should not use this medication as it can cause birth defects. In order to use this medication, it will be necessary to provide proof that you are using birth control and are currently not pregnant each time you renew your prescription.
- Birth-control pills, like Ortho-Cyclen or Ortho-Tri Cyclen, can reduce acne in women. Birth control also has side effects that should be monitored. Some of the side effects are abnormal menstrual bleeding, weight gain, changes in mood and blood clots.
- Cosmetic surgery, like chemical peels, dermabrasion, light therapy and laser resurfacing, may be used to eliminate acne scarring. However, for those people with sensitive skin, these procedures may make their skin complexion worse. Some other complications of this procedure are hyperpigmentation (skin darkening), development of a latent herpes virus, acne flaring, inflammation and scarring.