What is acne?

Medically known as Acne Vulgaris is manifested by constant breakouts and several numbers of pimples developing at the same time, which are painful and filled with pus.[1] Most of the time, acne is associated with the hormonal changes occurring in the body system that triggers an overactive sebaceous glands, leading to the excess discharge of oil. Human skin has pores which are connected to oil glands beneath the skin. The glands are connected to the pores via small canals called follicles. These glands are responsible for producing an oily liquid called sebum, which carries dead skin cells through the follicles to the skin surface. Normally, hair grows through the follicle out of the skin. If the follicle gets blocked as a result of the abnormal accumulation of oil under the skin, pimples develop.[2] If a pore gets clogged up and closes, but protrudes out from the skin, it is called a whitehead. If a pore is clogged up but stays open, the top surface becomes dark, which is called a blackhead.

They commonly affects areas such as the back, chest, face, neck and shoulders. It commonly occurs during puberty when the oil glands come to life. Although acne largely affects adolescents, it can also occur in adults. It occurs in both sexes, although the most severe cases affect teenage boys. Progress can cause so much stress as the healing process may take some time and when one lesion starts to resolve, others seem to build-up. Acne is not dangerous but in severe cases, can cause skin scarring which can be very frustrating. These scars can be very prominent and may require professional management for it to be reduced or totally removed.

What causes acne?

The cause  is unknown till date. According to some experts, Its formation can be attributed to the following factors:

Hormonal imbalances: During menstrual cycle, hormonal imbalances occur and may stimulate the overproduction of a certain hormone called androgens which are found in both men and women. This leads to the incidence of acne by overstimulating the sebaceous glands, and altering the development of skin cells that covers the hair follicles.[3]

Irregular shedding of dead skin cells: This results in irritation of the hair follicles of the skin. This irritation can lead to the development of pimples.

Build-up of bacteria: They develops following the blockage of hair follicles with dead skin cells and oil. These hair follicles are attached into the sebaceous glands which are responsible in secreting sebum (an oily substance) that lubricates the skin and hair. Normally, this oily substance moves along the hair shafts and into the opening of the hair follicles which leads to the skin surface. However, when there is an excess production of sebum as well as dead skin cells, it may accumulate in the hair follicles and together form a soft plug which is a type of environment where bacteria can grow well. The formation of plug may stimulate the walls of the hair follicles to swell thereby producing whitehead or the plug may be exposed to the skin surface and may darken resulting into a blackhead. When these clogged hair follicles become infected with bacteria, pimples (raised red spots in the skin with a white center) appear. If blockage and swelling occurs deep within the hair follicles and produces lumps beneath the skin surface, cysts develops.[4]

Genes: If they run in the family, chances are you are likely to get it. One study found that if you have a first-degree relative with acne, your risk of getting it is increased fourfold. [5]

What is the best acne treatment?

The aim of treatment is to clear and reduce spots as much as possible and to prevent acne scarring. There are several classes of acne such as mild ones which represents itself with a few red papules and occasional pustules mixed with blackheads. Moderate acne is seen with more breakouts, blackheads combined with scarring. Extreme is severe breakout, redness, blackheads and bacteria. Mild and moderate acne can be helped with correct skin care but it needs medical attention. Just remember a few pimples does not equate.

Unfortunately it is the common assumption to “dry” them out. This can cause a disruption of the skins natural barrier, which once compromised, will not protect the skin from bacteria. Dehydration usually results in “drying” of the skin thus tightening the surface of the skin will not allow natural oil flow. This then leads to papules and blackheads which essentially escalates the risk of acne.

To treat acne:

Choose a non-abrasive, gentle, and alcohol-free cleanser: If you have mild acne, this usually resolves on its own without scarring. However, inflamed acne can leave scars. To treat this, use Green Tea Cleanser. The green tea is anti-bacterial and calming to an inflamed skin.

Serums: Green Tea Serum is the first port of call for an acne skin. Due to the high percentage of Green Tea its anti-bacterial qualities will not dry out an infected skin. Clarity Serum should be used as a spot treat when bacteria is present. This combination of antibacterial herbs and plant extracts quickly heals active acne. Used as a spot treatment morning and night pimples disappear within a couple of days. Ideally applied with a gentle tapping method decreases the urge to pick. The AHA properties break down skin build up and help smooth the skin.

Exfoliation: When it comes to acne you do not want to spread any infection. Using Fruit Acid Mix, as tolerated by the skin, will help desquamate dead skin cells which cause congestion and black heads. The AHA and BHA will help with balancing the oil production and the 5pH will improve the skins barrier.

Best Acne TreatmentStay out of the sun: Aside from it can damage the skin, if you are on medications such as clindamycin, erythromycin and benzoyl peroxide, their side effects is photosensitivity which can make your skin more sensitive to light.[7] If sun exposure is inevitable, wear protective clothing and limit your exposure as much as possible.

Choose makeup carefully: Choose makeup that is oil free. Look for the word “noncomedogenic” when purchasing it. This means that the ingredients of the makeup will not clog up your pores.[8] Mineral make up without Talc, Kaolin or Glycols are perfect for an acne skin, and they also have an SPF rating to protect from UV damage.

Don’t prick your pimples: Pricking your pimples especially with your nails can get it infected. Your nails or other foreign object you will use to prick your pimples can contain harmful microorganisms that may worsen your acne. The action of squeezing can also “push” the infection back into the pore which will eventually erupt again at a later stage which can become a “vicious cycle”.

Under such situation, consult with your dermatologist for further management and evaluation as medication may be needed.

References:

  • 1. Fulton, J. (2001). Acne Rx: What Acne Really Is and How to Eliminate Its’ Devastating Effects, page 41.
  • 2. Davidson, J., et al (2013). Natural Cures for Acne.
  • 3. American Academy of Dermatology (2012, March 16). Hormonal factors key to understanding acne in women. In aad.org. Retrieved from http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/hormonal-factors-key-to-understanding-acne-in-women
  • 4. Lees, M. (2014). Clearing Concepts: A Guide to Acne Treatment, page 124.
  • 5. Acneeinstein.com. How Genes Affect Acne And How To Mitigate The Damage. Retrieved from http://www.acneeinstein.com/genes-acne/
  • 6. Ling, L. (2007). In Full Bloom: Look Fabulous During and After Pregnancy, page 111.
  • 7. Rogers, K., et al (2014). Nurses!: Test Yourself in Pharmacology, page 50.
  • 9. Farage, M., et al (2010). Textbook of Aging Skin, page 793.
  • 8. Nakhla, T. (2011). The Skin Commandments: 10 Rules to Healthy, Beautiful Skin.