Oct 26, 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Acne

The state of your skin reflects internal health. Glowing skin often indicates proper care and adequate hydration. On the other hand, skin ridden with black spots and other pimples is an indication of oxidative damage and hormonal imbalances.

Acne is a major skin problem for people all around the globe. Tens of millions American citizens experience breakouts every year. Even though acne affects individuals in all ages, those between 12 and 25 are the most affected. It affects the face, back, chest and the neck. When left untreated, acne results in low self-esteem. Acne can be controlled, and its effects minimized, by applying the correct treatments and preventative measures.

Signs and Symptoms of Acne

Acne causes oily skin, spots, and at times, skin that is painful or hot to the touch. There are six main types of spots caused by acne:

  • Blackheads – these are yellow or black bumps that form on the skin surface. The pigmentation is not due to dirt, but rather it is a result of the pigmentation of the inner part of the hair follicle.
  • Papules – these are tiny red bumps that usually feel sore and tender.
  • Whiteheads – they look like blackheads, only they’re firmer and do not empty when squeezed.
  • Nodules – they are large hard lumps that grow under the skin surface and can be very painful.
  • Pustules – they have a similar appearance to papules, but they have a white tip at the center that is caused by the buildup of pus.

Causes of Acne

Regardless of the age, skin color or gender, the cause of acne is the same: you will get acne if your hair follicles are blocked.

Understanding Normal Skin

The subcutaneous glands are located just below the skin, and they are responsible for the production of oil (sebum), that gives the skin a shiny glow and keeps it smooth. There are pores in the skin that allow movement of sebum to the surface. Hairs also grow via these pores.

When you have a hormonal imbalance (such as during puberty), more sebum is likely to be produced. The more the sebum produced, the more severe the acne.

Moderate Acne (whiteheads, blackheads, and papules)

Some pores are blocked. This is a result of the skin at the top of the pores getting thicker, combined with the dead skin cells that are released into the pores. The plugs that block the top pores are visible as whiteheads and blackheads.

Sebum may collect beneath the blocked pores. You can see these spots as well, and they are called papules or pimples. In most cases, acne does not progress beyond this mild stage.

Severe Acne

Trapped sebum offers a perfect environment for a bacterium known as Propionibacterium acnes to thrive. Usually, there are a small number of these bacteria living under the skin, and they are harmless. However, when scores of the bacteria develop inside the trapped sebum, your immune system may react and thus causing inflammation. It results in the surrounding skin becoming red, and the spots became larger and filled with pus (pustules). At times, the pustules grow bigger and develop into cysts and small nodules.

Risk Factors

  • Puberty – Usually, adolescence is marked by an increase in testosterone hormone levels. The hormone is vital in stimulating the development of adult sex characteristics in boys, and in girls, it maintains bone and muscle strength. Sebaceous glands are sensitive to hormones, which in turn causes increased sebum production that can go beyond what the skin requires.
  • Genetics – Acne may run in families. A study has shown that if your parents had acne, you are more likely to have it too.
  • Gender – More than 80 percent of adult acne occurs in women. It has been attributed to the hormonal changes that women undergo at times. They include periods, pregnancy, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Smoking – It has been found to cause acne in older people.
  • Some medications – Medications such as lithium used to treat depression and some steroid medications can cause or exacerbate acne.

Acne and Diet

So far, there is no proven link between diet and development of acne.

Top Treatment Options

The main reason for treating acne is to prevent scarring and to clear the spots as much as possible. There are several ways acne can be treated.

Prescription Acne Treatments

The drugs that the doctor recommends depend on the severity and type of the acne. They may be topical, oral, or a combination of the two.

Topical medications work best on dry, clean skin after about 20 minutes after washing. The most common topical medications are:

  • Antibiotics – they work by killing the excess bacteria and reducing redness. Antibiotics are often combined with benzoyl peroxide to reduce chances of developing antibiotic resistance. They include Duac, Acanya, and Benzamidine.
  • Retinoids – they are in the form of lotions, creams, and gels. They are derived from vitamin A, and they include adapalene and tretinoin.
  • Dapsone (aczone) – it is a gel and is most effective when combined with a topical retinoid.

Oral medications are usually prescribed for more severe cases of acne, and can include:

  • Antibiotics – for mild and severe acne, you may need oral antibiotics to fight inflammation and reduce bacteria. They include doxycycline and minocycline.
  • Anti-androgen agent, such as spironolactone – It may be considered especially for women and adolescent girls if the oral antibiotics are not helping.
  • Combined oral contraceptive – they are useful in treating women and adolescent girls.
  • Isotretinoin – it is preserved for people with the worst cases of acne because it is a powerful drug.

Non-Prescription Treatments

You can control or avoid acne using non-prescription products and self-care techniques. Some of these non-prescription treatments include:

  • Wash affected areas with a gentle cleanser at least twice a day. Avoid some products such as masks, facial scrubs, and astringents because they may irritate the skin.
  • Photodynamic therapy, in which light is applied to the skin’s surface to remove acne symptoms.
  • Use over the counter acne products to promote peeling and dry the excess oil. Products that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur or resorcinol can help control acne.
  • Avoid irritants and do away with greasy or oily cosmetics, using water based products instead.
  • Take caution of what touches the skin. Avoid tight clothing. Also, do not let hair or telephone receivers lie on your face.
  • Do not squeeze or pick blemishes, as doing this may cause scarring or irritation.

Alternative/Homemade Treatment Options

Some studies have shown the effectiveness of natural acne treatments. However, consult your doctor before trying out any remedy. Homemade treatment options include:

Apple cider vinegar

It is both antibacterial and antifungal. You can dilute a few teaspoons using a quarter cup of water and apply directly to the skin. Use the raw and unfiltered one that is labeled “with the mother.”

Tea tree oil

It is an essential oil with antibacterial properties. Mix about seven drops of the oil in a quarter cup of water and apply on the affected area. You can use it several times throughout the day, or you can leave it under your makeup.

Coconut oil

It is both an antifungal and an antibacterial remedy. It moisturizes, fights the bacteria, and reduces redness. Apply the coconut oil and massage it into the skin. You can apply many times during the day.

Egg whites

They are an excellent remedy for acne when used as a face mask. They reduce oil on the skin and remove impurities. Apply the egg white on your skin gently and wash after your skin starts feeling tight, usually after about ten minutes.


It is soothing and works best to reduce inflammation. Apply it gently on the skin several times a day. Using the aloe plant is better than the processed one, as it does not have any added ingredients.

Acne may be a big problem for many, but on the brighter side, it is treatable. Therefore, if you have acne, do not allow it to diminish your self-esteem. Visit a dermatologist as soon as you can.

RomarioIen / Shutterstock.com

RomarioIen / Shutterstock.com

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