Acne can be defined as tender red bumps with white pus at its tips. It is an inflammatory skin condition. This condition can turn chronic due to a lack of proper care. Acne is the root cause for pimples and spots, which usually come out on shoulders, face, back, chest, upper arms, and neck.
What is Acne?
It is a condition of the skin which occurs when hair follicles are plugged in with dead skin cells and excess oil. It is most commonly seen amongst teenagers, though it can affect persons belonging to all ages.
Different causes of acne are as follows:
- Excess production of oil
- Excess hormonal (androgen) activity
- Clogging of hair follicles. Can be due to dead skin cells or excess oil
The sebaceous (oil secreting gland) glands are mostly found in the forehead, face, shoulders, and upper back. It is due to this reason that acne appears in these areas of the body as it is here the oil formation takes place. Also, the hair follicles are connected to the oil glands.
A whitehead is formed when the hair follicles bulge, and when it is open to the surface, it turns dark to form a blackhead. A blackhead looks like your pores are filled and stuck with dirt. But what happens, in reality, is your pores are congested with oil and bacteria. These pores when exposed to air, turn brown in color.
The raised red color spots with a white center are what we call ‘pimples.’ It is formed due to the blockage of hair follicles that are infected or inflamed by bacteria. Cystic acne develops when the inflamed or obstruction caused deep inside the skin produces cysts – like bumps beneath the skin surface. The other skin pores (which are generally the sweat glands) are not involved in the acne occurrence.
Few other factors may aggravate or trigger the causes to worsen the acne-prone skin conditions. Some of them are listed below –
- Certain medications – When you are under certain strict medications, you are more prone to acne. For example, drugs that contain testosterone, lithium, or corticosteroids.
- Hormones – When a person enters the stage of puberty, the androgen hormones develop more, which causes the enlargement of sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum. The production of sebum is also affected during hormonal changes in pregnancy or the intake of oral contraceptive pills. The low circulation of androgens in the blood of women can also contribute to worsening the acne condition.
- Stress – It is the most impacting factor which causes most of the health issues. Increased stress can hugely affect and worsen the condition of acne.
- Diet – Many research and studies have stated that few dietary products, which include carbohydrate-rich foods (like bread, chips, bagel, etc.) or skim milk, may also act as a worsening factor. Many people have a favorite dessert, i.e., chocolate, which is also considered to worsen the condition of acne. A study conducted on a small scale with 14 men having acne condition, concluded that eating chocolates can further the worsening condition of acne. There is a need for further studies and research to happen to clearly state why people having a chronic skin condition of acne can benefit from skin supplements.
Risk factors –
It includes the following risk factors:-
- Changes in hormones – Hormonal acne or these changes in hormones are mostly seen in teenagers (at puberty), women and girls, people following certain medications who take drugs including lithium, testosterone, or corticosteroids.
- Age factor – Although it is most common in teenagers, acne can appear in people of all ages.
- History of the family – The health condition of the family plays a vital role in the next generation’s health conditions. After all, genetics are responsible for every health-related characteristics. If both your parents have acne, you are likely prone to develop it too.
- Pressure or friction on the skin – Friction or pressure can be caused due to items like telephones, cell phones, helmets, backpacks, and tight collars.
- Oily or greasy substances – People are likely to develop acne when their skin comes into contact with creams or oily lotions, grease in work areas, or kitchen activity with fry vats.
- Stress – While stress may not cause acne to develop, but it may worsen it if you have this condition.
Types of acne –
Acnes can be of following types –
- Whiteheads – closed plugged pores
- Blackheads – open plugged pores
- Pustules – (pimples) papules with pus at tips
- Cysts – (cystic lesions) pus-filled lumps under the skin surface
- Nodules – solid, painful and large lumps under the skin surface
- Papules – small, tender and red bumps
So, acne may look small in size, but if not treated at the right time with the right medications, it can be painful and may leave scars on your skin. Decide to consult a doctor after looking at the severity of the condition of acne. Seek prescribed treatment from the dermatologist for curing your acne when home remedies fail to deliver the desired results.
Types Of Acne
Let us learn about the types of acne in detail.
Acnes can be broadly categorized under two heads –
- Non – inflammatory (blackheads, whiteheads, mildest form of acne)
- Inflammatory (papules, pustules, nodules, cysts)
Non – inflammatory acne
It includes whiteheads and blackheads, which do not cause severe swelling. Also, they are better responsive than the inflammatory ones on the OTC treatment.
You can treat these by using salicylic acid. Salicylic acids are usually for acne, but it is best for non – inflammatory acne. It helps in exfoliation of skin naturally by removing dead skin cells, which causes blackheads and whiteheads. They can be found under the category of toners, moisturizers or cleansers.
These are closed comedones due to the clogging of dead skin cells and sebum. The top of the pore of whiteheads is closed, unlike blackheads. It protrudes from the skin like a small bump. They are comparatively more difficult to treat because the pores are closed. You can use products containing salicylic acid or topical retinoids for best results in treating comedonal acne. Differin or adapalene is an example of retinoids. If this is not working well on you, then take the prescribed treatment from your dermatologist.
These are open comedones clogged by sebum and dead skin cells. Only the top of the pore remains open, and the rest of it is clogged. This is the reason for the black color on the surface of the skin. As a result blackhead form on the skin.
Inflammatory acne is the ones with swollen and red acnes. Along with sebum and dead skin cells clogging the pores, bacteria also play a role in obstruction of pores to cause inflammatory acne, which is painful and hard to get rid off.
In such cases, products containing benzoyl – peroxide are useful to treat inflammatory acne. These products are effective in removing bacteria and excess sebum. Your doctor can also prescribe an oral antibiotic with benzoyl peroxide for the treatment of the acne. Topical retinoids are also recommended to treat inflammatory acne, especially, papules and pustules.
These are formed when the walls around the pores break down. Pustules are filled with pus, unlike papules. These are bump-like acnes coming out of the skin, which are usually red in color. The heads are generally white or yellow in color.
Severe inflammation can cause in break down of walls, which surrounds your pores resulting in the formation of papules. These are tender to touch but are hard and clogged pores. The skin around papules appears pink in color.
Cysts develop when pores are clogged by bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells. These are deep under the surface of the skin and are more inside than the nodules. Cysts are the most severe condition of acne, which are mostly white or red in color. Severe infection results in the formation of painful cystic acne, which might also leave scars. Cystic acne treatment includes isotretinoin (Sotret) medication, or in case of severe cysts formation, the doctor may remove it by surgical instruments.
These are formed when swollen and clogged pores grow further and cause irritation. Nodules are deep inside the surface of the skin, unlike pustules and papules, but are outer than cysts. It is hard to treat them with home remedies, so proper medication is suggested to cure nodules. Vitamin A for acne can be used, which are included in isotretinoin. These can be taken regularly for 4 to 6 months to prevent nodules by reducing the formation of oil and the gland size beneath the pores.