How Does Acne Form?

How does acne form? Most people ask themselves that question whenever they suspect they have acne. Acne is a common skin condition. Do you have spots and pimples on your neck, face, upper arms, chest, back, and shoulders? Chances are that you are suffering from acne. This condition can be worse for some people more than others; however, it is not a serious health condition. Many myths and misconceptions get associated with this inflammatory skin condition.

What is Acne?

Acne is a chronic disorder resulting from an increased rate of sebum secretion. The condition is characterized by closed comedones (whiteheads) and open comedones (blackheads). It’s classified as mild, moderate, and severe subject to its severity. It majorly occurs during puberty but can happen at any age when sebaceous glands are activated.

Inflammatory and non-inflammatory types of acne exist. Non-inflammatory acne appears as ‘blackheads’ or pimples. It develops over a more extended period and stays longer than pimples. Additionally, it leaves small red scars behind.

How Does Acne Form?

Acne starts when the skin’s sebaceous glands secrete a greasy substance that clogs the small openings of hair follicles. If these openings are large, the secretions take the form of blackheads resembling small, flat spots with dark centers. When the openings are small, clogs create whiteheads that resemble small, flesh-colored bumps.

Both types of blocked pores can form pimples, deeper lumps, tender inflammations, or nodules. Nodules that result in cystic acne are firm swellings that develop below the skin’s surface. These severe cases of acne make the skin tender, inflamed, and sometimes infected.

The skin condition tends to get worse in individuals with oily skin. Teenage acne can last for ten years and frequently disappears in the early 20s. Although it affects both genders, adolescent boys are worst affected. Furthermore, women may have mild to moderate forms of acne into their 30s and beyond.

Symptoms of Acne

There are several symptoms of acne.

  • Dark spots with open pores at the center.
  • Inflamed lumps or nodules that form under the skin may be soft and fluid-filled. These lumps may grow as big as an inch across.
  • Acne also forms red lumps or swellings that get filled with pus.
  • Recurrent, persistent red swellings that may get inflamed and fill with pus.

These spots appear on the neck, face, upper arms, chest, upper part of the back, and shoulders. Also, tiny white bumps that develop under the skin with no apparent opening may be a sign of acne.

Causes of Acne

Pores on the skin connect to oil glands underneath via follicles that produce and secrete sebum. Sebum transports dead cells to the skin surface where hair grows out through follicles. Whenever follicles get blocked, pimples grow due to oil build-up beneath the skin.

Sebum, dead skin cells, and hair clump together forming plugs that get infected with bacteria resulting in swelling. A pimple develops when the plug starts to break down. Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria contribute to the infection of the pimples since it lives on the skin. Several studies reveal that the strain of bacteria determines the frequency and severity of acne.

Hormonal factors, notably an increase in androgen levels, can also cause acne. Androgen hormone levels rise in the wake of puberty and become converted into estrogen in women. It causes oil glands beneath the skin to grow, increasing the rate of sebum production in return.

Excess sebum causes bacteria to grow after breaking down cellular walls in the pores. Heavy sweating and problems with adrenal glands or ovaries can cause acne. Other triggers of acne include:

Hormonal changes

  • Greasy cosmetics
  • Emotional stress,
  • Various medications that contain lithium and androgen
  • Genetic factors can cause acne

Types of Acne

Acne swellings and pimples vary in color, size, and level of pain.

  • Whiteheads – These pimples remain under the skin and are significantly small
  • Blackheads – The pimples are black, clearly visible, and form on the skin’s surface
  • Papules – The pimples are small and usually pink. They are visible on the skin’s surface
  • Pustules – The pimples are red at the base, clearly visible, and have pus at the top
  • Nodules – They are large, painful, solid, and visible on the skin’s surface. Also, they are deeply embedded in the skin
  • Cysts – They are painful, clearly visible on the skin’s surface, and get filled with pus. Acne cysts can cause scars.

Home Remedies for Acne

Since acne, in most cases, is not severe, it can be contained using home remedies. You can use soap and water for gentle cleansing twice a day. Also, you can apply apple cider vinegar, take zinc supplements, spot treat with tea tree oil, or use a honey and cinnamon mask.

Others include applying green tea, witch hazel, and cutting back on dairy products consumption. Moisturizing using Aloe Vera, regular exfoliation, exercising regularly, taking a low glycemic load diet, and taking a fish oil supplement are other viable home remedies. It is also advisable to reduce stress.

Treatment for Acne

If acne is already diagnosed, you can opt for cleansers and soaps that contain glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or salicylic acid. These substances are effective on mild cases of acne. Retinol gel, particularly Differin Gel, prevents acne pimples from forming hence reducing inflammation and swelling.

Prescriptions that your doctor may recommend in suppressing acne include antibiotics taken orally or applied on the skin, dapsone, or azelaic acid. Spironolactone, an oral drug, is also helpful for women whose acne cases worsen during menstruation. Your doctor may also inject triamcinolone directly into acne nodules.

Prevention and Management

Acne is preventable and manageable. Here are a few tips to help you manage and prevent acne:

  • Wash your face twice daily with mild soap and warm water.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure and do not burst pimples or scrub the skin.
  • Avoid stress and anxiety to manage cortisol and adrenaline production which aggravate acne.
  • Remove makeup before sleeping, keep hair clean, and hold your phone away from your face when talking.
  • Wear loose clothes if acne has attacked other parts of your body besides the face.
  • Wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and clean spectacles regularly.
  • Keep your body cool and dry during hot and humid weather to prevent sweating.

Although acne can be quite embarrassing, it’s not a severe condition. Appropriate home remedies, treatment, management, and prevention methods can help you keep acne in check. It’s always advisable to take preventive measures to keep your skin healthy. Visit your doctor if your acne gets severe out of hand or when medication prescribed seems unresponsive.