Spots. Zits. Pimples. Break outs. Bumps. Blemishes. Whatever you call it, acne is a prevalent skin problem that affects almost everyone. Most people experience the occasional flare up of acne at some point in their lives, but it is most prevalent during adolescence, afflicting 85% of teenagers to some degree.
There are several different types of acne, the most common is acne vulgaris – the type of acne that begins in puberty and is the bane of many even into their 20’s and 30’s. The early teens are a time when one begins the self-development to shape our personalities and character; unfortunately it is also the time when many are plagued by pimples. For many clear, radiant skin can seem elusive; acne may also reappear at other life junctions, such as the 30’s and during pregnancy.
Acne is actually a condition of the sebaceous glands that lie at the base of each hair follicle. Sebaceous glands make sebum, an oily substance that normally keep the hair and skin properly lubricated to help protect it. In acne, the normal transport of sebum out of pore is impeded. As sebum accumulates in the skin pore, it forms a moist breeding ground for the bacteria that cause pimples.
During puberty, the body undergoes hormonal changes which often cause sensitivities and imbalances in the body, such as ‘raging hormones’. This may cause the sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum. In some people, skin cells do not shed as quickly and the oil and skin cells cause a ‘plug’ in the pore. These plugs traps bacteria in the pores which cause them to swell and form tender red bumps, causing blackheads, whitehead pimples and cysts.
If this plug reaches the surface of the skin and is exposed to air, it turns black which many mistake as ‘dirt’ in the pores. If the wall of the plugged pore breaks near the skin’s surface the bump usually becomes a pimple. And if the wall breaks deeper under the skin, acne nodules or cysts can form. This is called cystic acne and is the type that can lead to pit-like scars.
In darker skin types pigmentation in the skin can cause surface blemishes; unlike scars, these will fade with time and can be treated by exfoliation and some skin renewal ointments. You can help prevent and reduce scarring by not squeezing or picking at your skin.
Acne can be disfiguring for some individuals and aside from physical scarring of the skin, it’s main effects are psychological and emotional, causing depression and low self-esteem.
Acne usually appears during adolescence, when people are most socially insecure, and is a problem that should be taken seriously; it can be controlled and treated to reduce the impact to individuals.