Acne is a common affliction resulting from the action of hormones and other substances on the skin's oil glands and or the hair follicles. These many factors lead to clogged pores and outbreaks of lesions commonly called pimples. Acne lesions or plugs usually occur on the face, neck, back, chest, and or the shoulders. Even though acne is usually not considered a serious health threat, it can often be a source of great emotional distress.
The singular cause of acne is still not known, but many doctors believe it comes from several related factors. An important factor is the increase in hormones called androgens. These male hormones increase in both boys and girls when puberty strikes causing the sebaceous glands to become larger and then make more sebum. The hormonal changes that related to pregnancy or starting or stopping birth control pills can also cause acne.
Researchers also believe that the tendency to gain acne can be inherited through genetics. For instance, studies have shown that many young boys with acne have a large family history of the affliction. Certain drugs, including androgens and lithium, are known to cause acne. Certain greasy makeups can alter the cells of the follicles and make them stick together, producing a plug.
Girls and women with acne tend to get it worse one or two weeks before their menstrual period arrives which seems to be associated with hormonal changes that take place at this time. Some people say they eat more chocolate during this time and wonder whether there may be a connection. However, experts believe the worsening acne is not due to chocolate, but rather to hormonal changes.
Anxiety and stress can affect your levels of some hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn can make acne worse.
Inflammation tends to get worse in hot and humid climates as sweat and oil based cosmetics can block pores. Some hair products are very greasy and might have the same effect as oil based makeup.
Acne may show up on your face in many different forms. The basic acne lesion, called the comedo, is simply an enlarged and plugged hair follicle. If the comedo stays beneath the skin, it is called a closed comedo and produces a white bump called a whitehead.
A comedo that reaches the surface of the skin and opens up is called an open comedo or blackhead because it looks black on the skin's surface. This black discoloration is due to changes in sebum as it is exposed to air. It is not due to dirt. Both whiteheads and blackheads may stay in the skin for a long time.
Other troublesome acne lesions can develop are:
Papules - Inflamed lesions that usually appear as small, pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to the touch.
Pustules (pimples) - Topped by white or yellow pus-filled lesions that may be red at the base.
Nodules - Large, painful, solid lesions that are lodged deep within the skin.
Cysts - Deep, painful, pus-filled lesions that can cause scarring.
To assist you with handling your acne, follow these pointers:
No matter what route you take with handling acne, washing your face morning and night is imperative. For best results use a mild soap or cleanser made especially designed to target acne.
You've surely heard this many times before but - don't try to burst the pimples! This is because you may push the infection further down, causing further irritation beneath the skin.
Try to refrain from touching your face with your hands. When you are on the phone try not to let the receiver touch your face - there may be sebum and skin residue on it.
Keep your hands clean, wash them regularly especially before touching your face. This includes before applying lotions, creams or makeup.
Eye glasses should be cleaned regularly. They will collect sebum and skin residue.
You skin needs to breathe. If your acne is on your back, shoulders or chest try wearing loose clothing. Tight garments, such as headbands, caps and scarves should be avoided - if you have to wear them make sure they are cleaned regularly.
Don't go to sleep with makeup on. You should use makeup which does not have oil and does not clog up the pores.
Hair collects sebum and skin residue. Keep your hair clean and away from your face.
Too much sun can cause your skin to produce more sebum.
If you shave your face, do it carefully. Use either an electric shaver or safety razors. If you use a safety razor make sure the blade is sharp. Soften your skin/beard with warm soapy water before applying the shaving cream.
There are many treatments for acne ranging from prescription medications, natural face washes to herbal remedies and supplements.
Below are ingredients used in face cleansers and acne treatment products:
Tea Tree Oil is a great natural choice as it has antibacterial properties, but unlike a chemical, it's not as fast-acting.
Benzoyl Peroxide is a popular ingredient in many acne products but it tends to be drying which can leave skin irritated.
Alpha hydroxy Acids (AHA's) are exfoliants that have long been used to impede or delay skin aging. They reduce the cohesion of cells in the lower layers of the stratum corneum, encouraging rapid shedding of dead skin cells on the surface, therefore triggering an increase in cell turnover rate and cell renewal.
Salicylic Acid is a form of beta hydroxy acid (BHA), and is a great skin cleaner commonly used as an acne treatment because it helps to slough away dead cells.
Kojic Acid may not necessarily be a breakout fighter but can help to fade dark marks and spots that are left behind after a breakout has cleared.
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