Everything You Need To Know About Acne

Almost everyone experiences acne vulgaris in the course of their life. it can be traumatic, especially when the acne is painful, persistent and leaves behind lingering scars and marks. With so much information available, it’s often challenging to pinpoint the underlying causes. Here, we attempt to cut through the noise with definitive facts of this common disease.

What Causes Acne?

Family history
Genetics is a major predictor of acne. If both parents have had acne, it’s likely their child will develop similar forms of the condition.

Hormones
Hormonal changes are why spots are the most prevalent in teenagers. Women too, may experience hormone-related breakouts during pregnancy and menopause, and in conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) where levels of androgens are elevated.

Bacteria
Propionibacterium acnes is a bacterium that can be found on most people’s skin and is typically benign. But when oil and dead skin cells create a plug in hair follicles, it quickly multiplies inside the plug, causing inflammation and invading other surrounding tissues.

Medication
Certain medications such as ones containing androgens, corticosteroids or lithium can disrupt hormones, causing blemishes.

Friction
Irritation from regular friction can play a role in acne, whether it’s a tight collar of a uniform, a fringe with hair product brushing against the forehead, or a headset worn for work.

How Does Acne Form?

Most of the sebaceous glands on our skin is concentrated on our face and scalp, and here they secrete sebum constantly. But when there is an overproduction of this oily substance, it can occasionally get trapped in a hair follicle. This happens when the outermost layer of the skin thickens abnormally in a process known as hyperkeratosis.

When hardened skin cells don’t shed quickly enough, they can trap the release of this excess sebum, which gets stuck underneath, forming a plug. If this occurs deeper in the skin it can create a closed comedone, or whitehead, and if it’s closer to the surface it’s an open comedone, or blackhead.

The propionibacterium acnes bacteria, ordinarily harmless, then begin taking over the plugged follicle, causing inflammation and the painful, reddened variety of pimples. These include bumps with or without pus, known respectively as papules and pustules, as well as cysts and nodules. All of these conditions can vary from mild to moderate to severe, and can also occur on the chest, back, neck and shoulders.

Common Acne Myths

“Acne is caused by a lack of hygiene, which means skin needs to be cleansed more frequently”

While acne-prone skins tend to overproduce sebum, this doesn’t mean that sebum on its own, or even dirt on the skin, is to blame. Breakouts could be brought on by many factors, including hormones, stress, the environment, or a combination of aspects. Washing the face too much can actually compromise the skin’s barrier, leading to irritation and exacerbating inflammation. Similarly, physical scrubs can do more harm than good, causing tiny scratches on acneic skins’ surface that encourage bacteria from active acne to flourish.

“Toothpaste works as a spot treatment”

Even though the tingling sensation of minty toothpaste can mask the irritation of zit, there are no acne-healing properties in toothpaste that help it clear blemishes. Apart from this, its foaming ingredient, sodium lauryl sulphate, causes transepidermal water loss that dehydrates the skin and makes it more prone to inflammation.

“Greasy food causes acne”

It’s true that a healthy diet leads to healthier skin, and nutrients we consume certainly affect the functioning of our organs. But many studies conducted have revealed that consuming oilier food does not in fact translate to more sebum produced in the skin. And that instead of greasy fried food, its high glycemic index foods that are more likely to trigger zits through increasing sebum production.

“Acne skins don’t need moisturiser”

The notion that pimples can be healed by drying it out is often accompanied by the idea that applying moisturiser makes the skin worse off. But research has shown that the right kind of moisturiser actually produces a therapeutic effect on skin, helping it retain moisture, keeping it soothed, and at the same time reducing itching and the temptation to pick.

Factors that can make acne worse

We have covered factors that make certain skins predisposed to acne. Yet there are other, more external reasons that can aggravate existing conditions. The most common ones are pore-clogging makeup, harsh skincare, climate, smoking, and stress, as well as food with a high-glycemic index. The most common of these foods are simple carbohydrates like white rice, potatoes, white bread,
pasta and those with a high amount of sugar.

The emotional impacts of acne

Living with acne can deal a huge blow to a person’s self-confidence, whether it shows up in adolescence or is triggered later in adulthood. In both cases, the experience is intensified when the condition is persistent, painful and scarring. This may even lead to dysfunctional behavior. Many sufferers refuse to leave the house without layers of makeup, for example. There’s the feeling of helplessness, often not helped by unsolicited advice from friends and strangers alike. For many, exploring a series of incompatible treatments have led to worsened skin, creating a vicious cycle that only fellow acne sufferers understand.

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