Spots. Blemishes. Pimples. Zits. No matter what you call them, they're ugly! They also seem to wait until the worst possible moment to erupt- right before a big date, the day of an important exam, and the afternoon of an interview included. Everyone hates acne, but almost everyone must deal with it at some point. Thankfully with a little understanding acne shouldn't bee too hard to beat.
What Is Acne?Acne is a disorder created when excess oil is trapped by a hair follicle and can not empty out of our skins' pores as normal. Instead, the oil builds up and forms a small plug in the pore which results in the spots that come out on our faces, necks, shoulders and even backs. Technically "acne" is an all-encompassing term for the number of different lumps and bumps including:
- Blackheads - half-blocked pores that allow some waste to surface, react with air and turn dark in colour.
- Cysts - painful, pus-filled bumps that can lead to scarring.
- Nodules - red, hard bumps that are located under the skin.
- Papules - small, pink inflammations that can be sore to touch.
- Pustules - smaller inflammations that are filled with pus and topped with a white or yellow plug.
- Whiteheads - pus-filled bumps that have a white top.
What are the Causes of Acne?Scientists still don't truly know the origins of acne, but they can disprove common myths such as that it is caused by chocolate and chips. Most experts now agree that hormones (especially those that tell our glands to produce oily sebum) and heredity play a part in causing acne. There are some factors that can make acne worse, such as:
- Using heavy, greasy skin care products that leave excess oil on the skin.
- Wearing make up that doesn't let the skin breath.
- Living in hot, humid areas where the skin has trouble secreting oils and sweat.
- Air and water pollution that adds irritants to the skin.
- Squeezing, popping or picking at existing acne.
- Hormones associated with PMT and menstruation.
- Birth control pills that alter hormonal cycles.
- Prescription medications.
How is Acne Diagnosed?Most teenagers only need to look in the mirror to realise that they'll occasionally have an acne breakout. Some teenagers, however, will find that they have persistent acne that just won't go away. If you are concerned that acne is taking over your life, visit your GP for a professional opinion. (S)he will discuss how best to treat your skin in order to clear up existing acne and keep further breakouts at bay. (S)he may also refer you to a dermatologist if (s)he feels that a specialist should be consulted.
How is Acne Treated?Minor acne flare ups can be treated safely and effectively at home by cleansing thoroughly, using an over the counter anti-acne medication and then moisturizing. When selecting an anti-acne treatment, look for a medication that contains either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Also make sure that you take a hands off approach to any spots that do appear because picking or squeezing them will just leave them open to infection and you'll risk scarring. More serious cases of acne may be treated in a number of ways. Your doctor may prescribe a cream or lotion loaded with acne fighters to get rid of harmful bacteria on your skin and loosen the blocked oil in your pores. Antibiotic tablets might also be prescribed to knock out bacteria before it can take hold in your system. Hormonal treatments are also an option for distressing cases of acne.
Acne could never be called attractive, but it doesn't have to ruin your life either. Mild outbreaks of acne are best kept clean, treated and then left alone. More serious acne outbreaks are better treated under the supervision of a GP or dermatologist. If you suffer from acne take heart - almost everyone will have experienced the same thing at some point!