If you experience unsightly acne bumps that pops every now and then on your face, you are certainly not alone! Acne is the bane of many people, especially teenagers. Youth holds many promises, amongst which is smooth and clear skin yet unmarked by the ravages of age. However, with the onset of puberty comes the threat of this ugly problem.
Acne occurs commonly during adolescence, affecting an estimated 85% of all teenagers. While the affliction rate decreases in adulthood, an estimated 30% of adults in their 20s and 30s still face this problem, and may continue to do so well into their 40s or even 50s.
It is always best to nip the problem in the bud. Otherwise, it can lead to long-term woes due to scarring – not only that of a physical nature but psychological ones, like anxiety, reduced self-esteem and even depression.
Acne vulgaris (or simply acne) is a condition characterised by the appearance of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, greasy skin, and possibly scarring, particularly on the face and upper parts of the body – such as the neck, shoulders, upper part of the chest and back – where a greater number of sebaceous (oil) glands are located.
The extent of this problem can range from the mild, moderate to severe. Mild to moderate acne vulgaris is characterised by non-inflammatory blackheads and whiteheads, and inflammatory lesions such as hard and rough papules and pus-filled pustules. Big and red inflamed bumps like nodules and cysts are symptomatic of more severe cases of acne.
Types of acne:
WHAT CAUSES ACNE?
The sebaceous glands located in our skin secrete an oily matter called sebum to lubricate our skin and hair.
The spike in the production of hormones in both male and female adolescents during puberty, and just before menstruation cycle in females (the use of oral contraceptives can also influence sebum production) often result in the sebaceous glands becoming enlarged. This leads to an increased production in sebum.
The excess secretion of sebum from the sebaceous glands, located at the base of our hair follicles, will then travel up the hair shafts and onto the skin surface.
Our skin is constantly regenerating new cells and shedding old ones. If the skin is not properly cleansed and taken care of, the dead cells and sebum will start to accumulate and cause the skin pores to become congested and clogged.
This buildup then forms a soft bump that provides a thriving environment for bacteria to breed, causing the skin to be more prone to irritation and infection. This bump eventually causes the hair follicle wall to swell (causing skin inflammation) and produce the various types of acne lesions. The inflammation can spread easily if left untreated.
ACNE CONTRIBUTING FACTORS
Over-frequent washing of your face, the use of harsh cleansers and excessive facial scrubbing will irritate the skin and aggravate any existing acne problem further. Squeezing pimples or acne bumps with dirty fingernails can trap bacteria and exacerbate your skin condition.
Another factor is acne mechanica – a condition that arises from the accumulation of sweat, and excessive friction and pressure due to the skin’s constant contact with items like telecommunication devices, headgears, tight collars and backpacks.
Dietary factors could also play a part in acne exacerbation. Some studies have shown that a high glycemic and high fat diet, excessive intake of carbohydrate-rich and dairy foods appear to activate acne sebum production.
Genetics have been identified as a major factor influencing the propensity of an individual’s skin to inflammation and scarring.
The use of the improper skincare products and cosmetics containing dense and greasy ingredients, such as cocoa butter and mineral oils, can potentially clog the pores and exacerbate acne production.
The use of medications containing corticosteroids, androgens or lithium is known to cause acne.
Letting acne runs its course can lead to severe long-term scarring. If your acne is not improving with over-the-counter treatments or if you have more severe forms of acne, consider speaking with a MOH certified doctor about clinical treatment options.