But not all acne is the same, while it is mostly thought to be a hormonal issue for many cases, poor hygiene and genetics can also play a major part in your susceptibility to have acne at any stage in life.
Acne is the blanket term for skin blemishes such as whiteheads, blackheads, cysts and the common spot, also known as a pustule. Having a mixture of these blemishes is a very common occurrence, with almost every person on earth experiencing at least one in his or her lifetime.
While they are largely completely harmless, many people find them unattractive and, in recent times, has unfortunately been stigmatized as a poor hygiene issue, which in most cases this is untrue.
From the beginning of puberty, the body goes through many alterations, due to hormone spikes and changes. These hormone alterations cause fluctuations in oil production on the face and across the rest of the body, which is the main root cause of acne.
When the skin overproduces oils, known as sebum, the excess can get trapped in pores and hair follicles, along with other dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria. Once inside the pore, the bacteria begin to thrive causing either a closed off infection that can swell up into bumps (whiteheads, pustules and cysts) or open blemishes that oxidize and are black in appearance (blackheads).
Outside factors other than hormones, is poor hygiene routines, such as not bathing or cleaning areas that are dirty, sweaty or produce a lot of oil. By not removing the dirt, dead skin and excess oils, there is a higher chance that a pore or hair follicle will become clogged and infected.
There are four main types of acne.
These are small white or skin colored bumps on the skin that are closed with no visible opening. The dirt, dead skin and oils get trapped beneath the skin and cause a small bump that can be hard to extract without the possibility of damaging any surrounding skin. These are typically not sore, swollen or red but can give the skin an uneven texture in affected areas.
Gentle exfoliation and limiting the amount of oil applied through creams and balms to the area can help to prevent these. The use of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can also help to reduce oil and bacteria that can cause whiteheads.
Blackheads are spots that typically appear flatter and black on the surface, they are usually quite easily extracted when pressure is applied to the sides of them. As opposed to whiteheads, blackheads are pores or hair follicles that do not trap debris under the skin but sit open which allows the air to oxidize the melanin which is trapped, turning it black in appearance. Contrary to popular belief, this is not trapped dirt that is lodged in the pores.
Exfoliation to remove dead skin, oil and dirt will help the affected area, as well as choosing lighter, non-oil based products for your skin. Extraction of larger, more persistent blackheads can be performed by a dermatologist, who can also prescribe other treatments if necessary.
These are the most classic known blemish, known as zits, pimples or spots. They are caused by the same process as white and blackheads, but once the pore is clogged, the cell walls break down and white blood cells collect inside to prevent infections. This induces swelling and pressure in the area and is only relieved when a pustule clears up.
This is the most commonly complained about blemish, due to the red swelling, pressure and soreness as well as the unattractive appearance on the skin. By keeping a good hygiene routine with exfoliation, the skin can be kept cleaner and remove unwanted dead skin cells, dirt and oils which cause clogged pores.
However, if you find that you experience chronic acne, at any age, it should be highlighted with your healthcare professional, who can prescribe stronger or hormonal treatments to help combat the excess oils released by hormone imbalances.
Cysts are formed in a similar way to other forms of acne but occur much deeper in the skin and are completely trapped. When this happens, a larger bump that is hard will appear, usually accompanied by swelling, pressure and pain. Cysts should never be squeezed as the infection can be spread throughout the surrounded skin, causing more cysts in the future.
If you experience cystic acne, consult a healthcare professional for prescription treatments such as antibiotics or, if necessary, to drain it in a sterile environment.
While most people can be safe in the knowledge that they will grow out of their acne, others will experience it on a long-term scale.
For teenagers and young adults, once hormones begin to settle down, the oil production should also begin to regulate, helping to clear up any acne you experience. If the acne is severe on your face or back you should consult a healthcare professional who can prescribe treatments to help regulate hormones.
For adult acne, it is normal to experience blemishes throughout your lifetime. The occasional spot or blackheads and whiteheads are usually normal, due largely to the use of creams and makeups which contain oils. These blemishes are usually controlled with a good hygiene and skin care regime.
Women may experience more hormonal based acne throughout their entire lives because of monthly hormone fluctuations when nearing or during their period. This is also true when women enter menopause, as hormone production is in flux again.
If you believe that you have an excessive amount of acne, at any stage in life, you should always consult a healthcare professional, to help regulate any hormonal issues you may be experiencing.