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Acne
Everything you wanted to know about acne, but were too embarrassed to ask

by Marcie Cook Licensed Aesthetician 
TYPES OF ACNE

Though all pimples start the same way, they can take many forms, and may react differently for different people. All acne begins with one basic lesion called a comedo which is an enlarged hair follicle plugged with oil and bacteria. The comedo, which is invisible to the naked eye, lurks beneath the surface of the skin waiting for the right conditions to grow into an inflamed lesion. There are basically two different types of acne: non-inflammatory and inflammatory. Non-inflammatory acne is a closed comedo, or whitehead. If the plugged follicle stays below the surface the lesion is called a whitehead. They usually appear on the skin as small, white bumps. If the plug enlarges and pushes through the surface of the skin it is called a blackhead. The plug's dark appearance is not due to dirt, but rather a buildup of melanin, the skin's dark pigment. Inflammatory acne usually called a papule appears on the skin as a small, firm pink bump. These are usually tender to the touch. There is also a slightly more harsh form of inflammatory acne called pustules. Pustules are small round lesions. Papules are clearly inflamed and contain visible pus. Nodules or cysts, the most severe form of acne lesions, are large and usually very painful. Nodules are inflamed, pus filled lesions lodged deep within the skin. They develop when the contents of the comedo have spilled into the surrounding skin and the local immune system responds, producing pus. Nodules cysts may persist for weeks or months, their contents hardening into a deep cyst. Both nodules and cysts can often leave deep scars.

TEEN ACNE

If you're a teen suffering from acne you're not alone, at least 90% of all adolescents have acne. It effects teens of every shape and size, in every country in the world. A recent study done by the American Medical Association revealed that acne is one of today's teenagers' biggest worries. Acne without question affects a person’s self esteem, and in most teenagers they are still trying to figure out who they are and their self-esteem is already shaky. Some teenagers have acne that is so severe that they don't even want to go out of the house or to school social functions, such as sporting events or dances. At the onset of puberty the body begins to produce hormones called androgens. These "male" hormones are a natural part of development for both boys and girls, but boys tend to produce more of them, and therefore have more severe breakouts. Our faces and bodies are covered with tiny little hairs, each one fitting snuggle into a hair follicle, sometimes called a pore. Deep within each follicle, oil glands are hard at work producing sebum, which travels up the hair and out onto the surface of your skin. Sebum's job is to form a protective layer between your skin and the world, keeping it soft and smooth.

When the androgens enter into the equation the oil glands go into overdrive. They produce extra oil, which can clump together with the dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin. This sticky mixture finds it's way into your pores and acts like a cork in a bottle, trapping oil and bacteria inside the pore. Your oil glands continue to do their job and produce oil, which causes the follicle to become swollen. The body's natural defense system then kicks into gear rushing white blood cells to the area to clean up the mess. The result is a red, painful bump, yucky black spots, zits, blackheads and pimples.

ADULT ACNE

Acne strikes adults too, more than half of all adult women and about a quarter of adult men suffer from acne, and theses figures seem to be climbing. As the word begins to awaken to adult acne it's becoming clear that the psychological, social and physical effects of this condition don't diminish with age. In a study done in 1999 it showed that the mean age of patients being treated for acne had increased significantly from 20.5 to 26.5 years. The increase in these numbers could mean one of two things either more adults are getting acne or more adults are seeking treatment for their acne. Whether one's acne persists through adolescence into adulthood or strikes suddenly after 30, the condition can leave lasting physical and psychological ramifications. Adult acne is more likely to leave permanent physical scars, as the skin ages and loses more of its collagen it's much harder for it to bounce back from tissue damage.

CAUSES OF ACNE

Acne affects almost everyone - more than 90% of all adolescents, nearly 50% of all adult women and 25% of all adults. It's one of the most widespread conditions in the world... yet there is still no cure. First you should try to determine the type and severity of your condition. Acne is highly individual, it can take many forms and have a highly variable response to treatment. The more you know about your specific form of acne, the more likely you are to find a treatment that works for you. There are five main causes of acne, none of which you have any control over.

  • First of these culprits is hormones. Hormones cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge. Hormones are also responsible for acne flare-ups associated with the menstrual cycle, and on occasion pregnancy.
  • Second of these is sebum, oil the body produces to moisturize itself. When the sebaceous gland is stimulated by hormones it produces extra sebum. The presence of extra sebum in the follicle increases the chance of clogging and acne.
  • Third is follicle fallout. Normally, dead cells within the follicle shed gradually and are expelled onto the skin's surface. In patients with overactive sebaceous glands - and almost everyone during puberty these cells are shed more rapidly. Mixed with a surplus of sebum, the dead skin cells form a plug in the follicle, preventing the skin from finishing its natural process of renewal.
  • Fourth are bacteria. Bacterium propionibacterium (P. Acnes) is a regular resident of all skin types. It's part of the skin's natural sebum maintenance system. Once the follicle is plugged Bacterium propionibacterium (P. acnes for short) multiply more rapidly, creating the chemical reaction we know as inflammation in the follicle and surrounding skin.
  • Fifth is inflammation. When the body encounters unwanted bacteria, it sends an army of white blood cells to attack the intruders. This process is called chemotaxis or inflammation. This is what causes pimples to become red, swollen, and painful.
MYTHS & CLAIMS

The number one myth about acne is that it comes from dirt. Acne is caused by a number of things, but dirt isn't one of them. Blemishes form when dead skin cells mix with your body's natural oil, forming a plug in the pores. Over washing your face or body (more than 2-3 times per day) will not make your acne better. In fact too much washing or the over-use of harsh scrubs and pore strips can actually strip the skin of the oil it needs to stay soft and pliable.

Another myth is that acne is for teenagers and you'll grow out of it. This myth is one of the most damaging, because it can cause teenagers to "wait it out" instead of seeking treatment for their acne. Aside from the damage this myth can cause teenagers it can be even more damaging to adults, it can leave them feeling alienated from other adults. They could be asking themselves "why do I still have acne? Or what am I doing wrong". The truth is acne can strike any age and remember it's not your fault.

Over-the counter products have been making the claim that a dab of medicine directly on the pimple will clear it up, unfortunately there is no truth to this claim. Since blemishes take 2-3 weeks to develop, you're treating an old symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself.

Certain foods cause acne is a myth I am sure everyone has heard of at one time or another. Scientists have been unable to find any substantial connection between acne and diet. Although it is true that a healthy diet will help your body have the strength to help you fight against acne.

Most make-ups today are non-comedogenic, non-clog poring. So when looking for make-up look for make-ups that are non-comedogenic, oil-free and hypoallergenic. Acne is just a cosmetic condition is a truth associated with acne. Acne can affect the way you feel about yourself and the world around you. It can cause low self-esteem and even depression. After acne is gone it can leave permanent physical and emotional scars. So don't let anyone stop you from seeking treatment because your acne is just "a little problem".




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