The term acne refers to whiteheads and blackheads (skin pores that get clogged) and nodules or cysts, which are deep lumps. These are found on a persons face, chest, neck, back shoulders and sometimes the upper arms. Most teenagers are affected by acne to some degree although folks in other age groups can experience acne as late as into their 40’s. It’s not life threatening but can be disconcerting to your view of yourself and can even be permanently disfiguring if severe. A person with acne can end up with permanent scars. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be severe at the outbreak to end up scarring forever.
Acne’s causes go back to hormonal changes at the onset of puberty, with oil glands producing in abundance. These oil glands, known as sebaceous glands, are primarily affected by male hormones known as androgens. Females have androgens as well, though they don’t have as many as males.
A hair shaft inside a sebaceous gland make up what is known as a sebaceous follicle. While going through puberty, the skin cells lining these follicles shed more quickly than in past years. In those who experience acne the cells shed but stick together more than in those who don’t get acne. When these cells stick together this overabundance of sebum (oil) probably will end up plugging the follicle’s opening and because the sebaceous gland doesn’t stop producing its sebum the follicle simply swells up.
What also happens is that a bacterium called P.acnes, that is normal to have in skin, start to quickly multiply in the hair follicle that is clogged. The substances produced by these bacteria are irritating and cause inflammation. The follicle sometimes bursts and then the inflammation spreads to skin surrounding it. This is the way that acne’s lesions – whether pimples, blackheads or nodules – form.
There are several myths about acne that we’d like to dispel. The first is that your poor hygiene causes acne. People who believe this myth ended up scrubbing their faces and other skin parts harshly and too often, which often makes the acne condition even worse. Acne does not happen because your surface skin is covered by dirt or oil. While you don’t want to leave dead skin, dirt or excess oil on your skin you don’t want to vigorously scrub it away either, or you’ll exacerbate the acne problem. What you should do instead is wash your face gently twice each day and then put it dry. You may also want to use an acne treatment – over the counter or prescribed.
The second myth about acne’s cause is that stress brings it on. Ordinary stress is not related to acne at all, although if you suffer from stress that becomes severe enough to warrant the care of a physician and prescribed medications those medications might produce acne. If you’re taking drugs for depression or other stress related symptoms and you have an acne breakout you should see your doctor.
The third myth about acne is that your poor diet choices cause it. Your mother probably told you to avoid chocolate or fried foods or even pizza and it would help your acne. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Food intake doesn’t affect acne. A balance diet is a good choice for your overall health, of course, but it just doesn’t affect acne.
Another myth is that acne is just a cosmetic problem – in other words, not a big issue. People who think this way disregard the effect it can have on the way people – especially teenagers – feel about themselves. The other issue is that it can permanently scar.