Acne seems like it’s a rite of passage. It’s something almost everyone goes through at some time or another. It’s a skin condition that happens when hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells, causing whiteheads, blackheads or pimples. And although it’s common with teenagers, acne can affect people of all ages.
Contrary to popular belief, acne is not caused by the over-consumption of oily foods, or sugars. Rather, acne is caused when tiny holes in the skin — known as hair follicles — become blocked. Close to the surface of the skin are tiny glands called sebaceous glands that lubricate the hair and the skin, helping prevent dryness. The glands do this by producing an oily substance called sebum. In the case of acnes, these glands produce too much sebum. The sebum then mixes with dead skin cells and plugs the follicles. If the plugged follicle is close to the surface of the skin, it bulges outward, creating a white head. Alternatively, if the plugged follicle is open to the skin, it creates a blackhead.
TYPES OF ACNE:
Acne vulgaris is the medical name for common acne — the presence of blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of pimples on the skin. The most common spots for breakouts are the face, chest, shoulders, and back.
A comedo, or basic acne lesion, is a hair follicle that has become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Comedones can develop into bumps called whiteheads and blackheads. Products that may trigger comedones are called “comedogenic.” Makeup labeled “noncomedogenic” is less likely to clog pores and contribute to acne.
Blackheads are comedones that are open at the surface of the skin. They are filled with excess oil and dead skin cells. It’s not dirt that causes the comedone to turn black. The black hue results from the irregular reflection of light coming from clogged hair follicles. Blackheads can frequently be treated with over-the-counter medications.
Comedones that stay closed at the surface of the skin are called whiteheads. This happens when oil and skin cells prevent a clogged hair follicle from opening. Many of the same over-the-counter medicines that treat blackheads are also effective against whiteheads.
Papules are comedones that become inflamed, forming small red or pink bumps on the skin. This type of pimple may be sensitive to the touch. Picking or squeezing can make the inflammation worse and may lead to scarring. A large number of papules may indicate moderate to severe acne.
Pustules are another kind of inflamed pimple. They resemble a whitehead with a red ring around the bump. The bump is typically filled with white or yellow pus. Avoid picking or squeezing pustules. Picking can cause scars or dark spots to develop on the skin.
Nodules are large, inflamed bumps that feel firm to the touch. They develop deep within the skin and are often painful. Nodules should be treated by a dermatologist since they can scar. Over-the-counter treatments may not be powerful enough to clear them up, but prescription drugs can be effective.
Cysts are large, pus-filled lesions that look similar to boils. Like nodules, cysts can be painful and should be treated by a dermatologist since they also can scar. People who develop nodules and cysts are usually considered to have a more severe form of acne.
Severe Nodulocystic Acne
People with severe nodulocystic acne have multiple inflamed cysts and nodules. The acne may turn deep red or purple. It often leaves scars. Prompt treatment by a dermatologist can minimize scarring. In some cases, a doctor may inject corticosteroids directly into nodules and cysts to reduce the size and painful inflammation.
Acne mechanica is caused by heat, friction, and pressure against the skin, often the result of wearing sports gear such as a helmet or baseball cap. It is sometimes called “sports-induced acne” because it occurs frequently in athletes. Preventive measures include wearing an absorbent material under sports equipment and showering immediately after activity.
Topical therapy is acne medication that is applied directly to the skin, like gels or creams. Over-the-counter topical products can often help mild acne. They may contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, or sulfur. Prescription products such as antimicrobial or retinoid creams can treat mild to moderately severe acne. These can be prescribed alone or in combination with other ingredients. Drugs that contain tretinoin are useful for moderate acne. You apply this in the evening, three times a week, and increase the frequency as your skin gets used to it. Antibiotics work by killing excess skin bacteria. These are usually drugs like tetracycline. They should be used for as short a time as possible.
There are instances where acne leaves scars on the body. While these scars can’t be removed, they can be treated to reduce their appearance. Medical-grade silicone has been used by the medical industry for years. The silicone sheeting is placed over the scar and left for a few hours. The longer the treatment time the better the results.