Acne: The Most Common Skin Condition
If you have ever had a pimple, whitehead, or blackhead before, you’ve had acne. Acne is a skin condition that is typically caused by plugged hair follicles or an overproduction of oil (sebum). Oil production on the skin is associated with certain hormones, which explains why acne is especially common among teenagers. However, acne can affect people of all ages.
The severity of acne varies from person to person. Pimples and other blemishes usually go away on their own, but some cases of acne can be persistent and heal slowly. Severe acne can cause scarring, which can lead to complications like emotional distress. Acne is commonly treated with topical creams or gels, which can reduce the risk of scarring and assist in the healing process.
Symptoms of Acne
Acne may cause blemishes of different types. Acne signs are generally categorized into the following:
Whiteheads.Whiteheads form when dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil become trapped in your pores. These blemishes appear white because the pore is closed.
Blackheads.These are like whiteheads but with open pores. The plugged substances are exposed to oxygen, causing a black appearance.
Papules.These are characterized by small, red, and tender bumps.
Pimples.Most people know this type as pimples, but they can also be called pustules. Pustules are red and tender bumps with pus at their tips.
Nodules.Nodules are large, solid, and painful lumps underneath the skin.
Cystic Lesions.These are like nodules, but they are filled with pus.
Acne blemishes typically affect the face, but they can also appear on the chest, upper back, and shoulders. Some home remedies may be effective but see your doctor if you require stronger medications to improve symptoms. Some skin products may cause allergic reactions or side effects. If you feel tightness in your throat, swelling anywhere on your face, or difficulty breathing after using a skin product, contact your doctor right away.
Causes of Acne
As mentioned, acne typically affects the face, chest, shoulders, and upper back. Why does acne affect these areas more than others? This is because these areas of the skin have the most oil (sebaceous) glands. Hair follicles are connected to these sebaceous glands, which is why they may bulge when the pore is plugged.
Everyone produces a certain amount of androgen—a hormone that is important for growth and development, especially during the teenage years. Any type of hormone change, whether related to puberty or not, can enlarge the sebaceous glands and increase sebum production. Particularly in teenagers and menopausal women, hormone fluctuations are what cause acne. Other common causes include:
Diet. What you eat has a very direct link to acne breakouts. A study reported by Harvard Health surveyed more than 24,000 adults affected by acne. What researchers found was a strong correlation between current acne and the consumption of sugary and high-fat foods and beverages.
It is believed that foods with high fat and sugar contents can promote inflammation throughout the body, which may trigger acne. What you eat also affects the hormones in your body. Some research links milk and whey protein to acne as well.
Medications. Drugs that contain corticosteroids, testosterone, or lithium have been known to cause acne. Additionally, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, androgenic steroids, and medications containing bromides or iodides can also cause acne. Most acne breakouts aren’t drug-related, but they can happen.
Too much stress. Stress is not exactly a cause of acne. It is more like a trigger that can worsen acne symptoms. Excess stress can cause the sebum-producing cells in the body to go into overdrive. With more sebum, your pores are more likely to become clogged. Stress can affect the sebum-producing cells because these cells have receptors for stress hormones.
Risk Factors for Acne
As previously mentioned, teenagers are the most at risk of developing acne due to hormone changes during puberty. However, pregnancy, menopause, or medications can put you at risk of this skin condition, too. Below are several other risk factors for acne:
Family history. Acne is strongly associated with a family history of acne. However, studies show that this risk is reduced in people with a lower body mass index (BMI).
Frequent use of oily products. If you regularly come into contact with greasy or oily substances, you have a higher risk of developing acne. Some lotions or moisturizers are oily and can clog your pores. To reduce this risk factor, use only products labeled as non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores).
Pressure and friction. If your skin is frequently irritated by friction or pressure, you may be more likely to develop acne. Backpack straps, tight collars, and cell phones are some common sources of friction to the skin.
With acne being so common, there are many myths surrounding this skin condition. Many products also claim to relieve acne symptoms, so it can get difficult to choose the right skincare items. If you struggle with acne, talk to your doctor or a dermatologist today.