What is Acne?
Acne is a skin condition which has plugged pores (blackheads and whiteheads), inflamed pimples (pustules), and deeper lumps (nodules).
Where does Acne occur?
- Upper Arms
Types of Acne
There are two types of Acne: 1) Non-Inflammatory Acne and 2) Inflammatory Acne.
Closed comedo, or whitehead. If the plugged follicle stays below the surface of the skin, the lesion is called a closed comedo, or whitehead. They usually appear on the skin as small, whitish bumps.
Open comedo, or blackhead. If the plug enlarges and pushes through the surface of the skin, it’s called an open comedo, or blackhead. The plug’s dark appearance is not due to dirt, but rather to a buildup of melanin, the skin’s dark pigment.
Papule. The mildest form of inflammatory acne is the papule, which appears on the skin as a small, firm pink bump. These can be tender to the touch, and are often considered an intermediary step between non-inflammatory and clearly inflammatory lesions.
Pustule. Like papules, pustules are small round lesions; unlike papules, they are clearly inflamed and contain visible pus. They may appear red at the base, with a yellowish or whitish center. Pustules do not commonly contain a great deal of bacteria; the inflammation is generally caused by chemical irritation from sebum components such as fatty free acids.
Nodule or Cyst. Large and usually very painful, nodules are inflamed, pus-filled lesions lodged deep within the skin. Nodules develop when the contents of a comedo have spilled into the surrounding skin and the local immune system responds, producing pus. The most severe form of acne lesion, nodules may persist for weeks or months, their contents hardening into a deep cyst. Both nodules and cysts often leave deep scars.
Acne conglobata. This rare but serious form of inflammatory acne develops primarily on the back, buttocks and chest. In addition to the presence of pustules and nodules, there may be severe bacterial infection.
What treatment are available for acne?
- Benzoyl Peroxide: Kills the bacteria that causes acne.
- Proactiv® Solution: A dermatologist formulated Combination Therapy® acne management system.
- Salicylic Acid: Unclogs your pores and encourages skin renewal.
- Tretinoin (Retin-A®): Promotes healthy sloughing.
- Antibiotics: Kill bacteria and reduces inflammation.
- Oral Contraceptives: Help regulate hormone levels.
- Anti-Androgens: Inhibit the body’s production of acne-causing hormones.
- Isotretinoin (Accutane®): Treatment for severe cystic or nodular acne.
How can I prevent acne?
Hygiene – Most affected teenagers address acne prevention with manic scrubbing and dieting. They do this because of a mistaken assumption that the problem is related to poor hygiene or improper nutrition. Avoiding fat-laden junk foods like cheeseburgers is definitely a step in the right direction for other health-related reasons. However, it will do little by ways of acne prevention. Skin hygiene is important, and one can prevent acne to a certain extent by increased and regular cleansing. However, one tends to go overboard and resort to using extreme measures like a face wash of strong toothpaste and other harsh compounds.
Diet – Don’t eat that — you’ll get zits! We’ve all heard it; from parents, friends or even the family doctor. But the fact is, even after extensive study, scientists have not found a connection between diet and acne. Not chocolate. Not french fries. Not pizza.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “A healthy diet is important for improving raw materials for healthy skin,” but they also note that greasy or sugary foods do not cause acne.1 Likewise, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concurred, “Diet plays no role in acne treatment in most patients…even large amounts of certain foods have not clinically exacerbated acne.”1 Of course, that doesn’t mean you should make a habit of eating foods high in sugar or fat. The skin is the body’s largest organ, so what’s good for the rest of you will be good for your skin, too.
Medications – The good news is that there are some acne medications that are based on science, not old wives’ tales. Instead of drying out all the oils in your face and hoping for success, they attack acne where it starts, getting rid of even the most severe acne, in some cases in just days. Some have a barrage of ingredients and some focus on only one or two. Either way, you can finally start fighting your acne!
Consult with your physician to determine if prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs will help your particular acne breakout.
Stress & Lifestyle – How can stress — emotional anxiety caused by any number of factors in your life — show up on your face? The connection is purely chemical. When you become tense, your adrenal glands go work, flooding your bloodstream with the hormone cortisol. This triggers the sweat glands in your face to produce more oil. When your sebaceous glands go into high gear, there’s a higher probability that this excess oil will mix with dead skin cells and clog your pores, trapping bacteria inside. The result? More acne, primarily inflamed papules rather than blackheads or whiteheads.
- Shave with Care. Men know that shaving when you have acne can be a challenge. Here are some dermatologists’ tips that can help give you a clean shave.
- Before shaving, soften the hairs. Wetting the face thoroughly with lukewarm water can help soften the hairs.
- Experiment. Try shaving with electric and safety razors to see which works best for you.
- Make sure the blade is sharp. This helps prevents nicks from a safety razor, which can irritate the skin and lead to breakouts.
- Shave lightly. This can help avoid nicking acne lesions, which can make acne worse.
- Never try to shave off the acne. This aggravates the condition and makes the acne worse.
Cosmetics – Cosmetics, because of their chemical compounds, are directly related to acne. In fact, acne cosmetica, or acne caused by cosmetics, is a common mild form of acne. This type of acne is triggered by topical factors and not the complex processes that take place inside the body. Even those people who are not susceptible to acne sometimes suffer from acne cosmetica. Because it is generated by outside chemical substances, acne cosmetica is easy to get rid of. Stop using the cosmetic which has triggered acne, and the acne disappears.
Acne cosmetica is small, rashy, pink bumps on the cheek, chin and forehead. It develops over a period of a few weeks or months and may be persistent for a long time. The outbreak can be stopped by end the use of the particular cosmetic which triggers the onset. In any condition, people suffering from acne should avoid using cosmetics. Studies have shown that make-up may not cause true acne, but it can worsen the existing acne condition.
Exercise – Moderate exercise is actually good for your skin — it helps you maintain a healthy body and manage your stress levels, too. If you find your acne is aggravated by regular exercise, then you may want to examine your routine. What do you wear? Where do you go? How hard do you work? Exercise-related acne is usually caused by something you put on your body rather something you do with it. Remove these outside factors, and you may put an end to your workout breakouts. Here are just a few things to watch for.
- Acne & Exercise – Make-up. When exercising, wear as little make-up as possible. Even oil-free and non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) cosmetics can clog pores if worn during heavy exercise. When you’re done working out, wash as soon as possible.
- Acne & Exercise – Sunscreen. If your regimen takes you outdoors, always wear sunscreen. While acne may improve slightly after brief periods in the sun, studies show that prolonged exposure actually promotes comedones (clogged pores) and, of course, sun damage. Some kinds of acne medication make skin more sensitive to the sun, so sunscreen is even more important. When choosing a sunscreen, look for products that are oil-free and have a protection factor of at least SPF 15 for both UVA and UVB rays.
- Acne & Exercise – Clothing. If you’re prone to body acne, avoid garments made exclusively with lycra or nylon. Why? Some synthetic fabrics can trap the heat and moisture against your skin, creating a fertile breeding ground for the bacteria that contribute to acne. For moderate exercise, your best bet is lightweight, loose-fitting cotton, or a lycra-cotton blend. Natural fabrics allow the skin to breathe, and loose garments are less likely to cause friction.
- Acne & Exercise – Equipment. Some people are more likely to get acne or have their lesions aggravated in the areas affected by sports equipment. The best defense against friction-related breakouts is a good fit — make sure your helmet doesn’t slide around on your forehead, or your wetsuit isn’t too tight under the arms. You can also curb equipment-triggered breakouts by lining your helmet with a layer of soft, washable cotton fabric; it’s a great use for those old t-shirts, too.
- Acne & Exercise – Moisture. Mom was right: You should get out of those wet clothes! No matter how you get your exercise — treadmill, trail, tennis court, or whatever — don’t sit around in your sweaty clothes or wet bathing suit when you’re done. If you can, shower off immediately and change into dry clothes before driving home.
- Acne & Exercise – Showering. Again, it’s best to shower immediately after working out. You may want to use a medicated exfoliant cleanser, but always be gentle with your skin. Scrubbing harder isn’t going to make you any cleaner, or make your acne go away — and it may actually irritate existing lesions or promote the development of new ones.
Hormones – Acne by its very nature can be considered a hormonal disease. Hormones are responsible for the maturation of the oil glands in our skin. This is why children do not experience acne.
There are several times in our lives when our hormones can become unbalanced and wreak havoc, including puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and, well, any other time they feel like it. More specifically, acne may be precipitated by androgens, male hormones present in both men and women. The oil surplus created by these hormones may be instrumental in clogging hair follicles where bacteria grows and causes acne pimples and blemishes.
Consult with your physician to determine if prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs will help your acne caused by hormones.