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.
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.
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.
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:
Acne swellings and pimples vary in color, size, and level of pain.
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.
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.
Acne is preventable and manageable. Here are a few tips to help you manage and prevent acne:
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.