Introduction and background
Acne is a skin condition and is becoming increasingly common with the change in life styles and habits. Let us deal with factors that cause acne and how acne develops but first discuss the definition of acne.
What is Acne?
Acne is a skin disorder caused due to abnormal pilosebaceous units. These units consist of sebaceous glands present under hair follicle. They are more common on face chest, back and torso areas. These glands secrete sebum which causes inflammation or acne. Acne breakout may occur at any age and is equally common in males and females. This is usually linked to hormonal changes so it is more likely to occur in adolescents or teens but it may continue till adulthood especially in women who keep undergoing hormonal changes due to menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Acne not only causes pimples but it may also cause blackheads, whiteheads and cysts. Acne cannot be prevented since it is sporadic and most of the time very difficult to guess who the next patient will be but it can be managed and cured.
What causes acne?
Hormones, diet, evolutionary biology, vitamin deficiency, stress and many other factors are considered to be related to the cause and outbreak of acne.
Propionibacterium acnes is a bacteria that feeds on sebum oil for growth, the higher levels of sebum oil lead to thriving of this bacteria and causes acne. Under normal circumstances this bacteria protects the skin against harmful bacteria but when the skin pores become clogged this bacteria cause inflammation, nodules and pustules.
If a person is stressed then the adrenal glands produce increased levels of these hormones, causing even greater enlargement of the oil glands.
During times of stress, the adrenal glands produce increased levels of androgens, which causes enlargement of oil glands. Androgens are present in both males and females. Testes and ovaries secrete these hormones. The over active oil glands cause acne whether due to stress or due to hormonal activity during puberty.
When overactive oil gland enlarges and produces excess oil acne occurs. The skin pores become clogged and the oil causes acne break out. Pores get clogged due to dead skin, dirt or even excess oil. A blackhead or white head may also develop.
The body has it own immune mechanism; it kicks in to get rid of foreign substances and may cause inflammation. Acne occurs because bacteria and chemicals produced by them are foreign for our skin and cause inflammation as our immune system tries to rid them off.
Comedo or black heads or white heads formation is the first stage of acne. The hair follicles thicken and keratinous plugs are formed which cause these black heads and white heads. The difference between the blackhead and the white head is that of the follicular opening. The closed ones cause white heads and the open ones result in black heads. Black heads get their color from the reaction of sebum oil with atmospheric oxygen.
Acne may be hereditary but this does not have substantial backing since parents without acne may have children with acne or vice versa. Nevertheless a similar skin type is considered to run in family and acne usually attacks oily skin.
Drugs like androgen and lithium may also cause acne. At times the use of greasy cosmetics clogs our pores and results in the outbreak of acne.
Where does acne normally occur?
Propionibacterium acnes is present every where except for palms and soles of our feet, this is also shows why we donâ€™t have hair on palms and soles since we donâ€™t have hair follicles there. Acne is more common in areas where there are more sebaceous glands such as face, back, neck, chest, shoulders or torso at times in men.
What aggravates acne?
Factors that aggravate acne include:
â€¢ Hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.
â€¢ Rubbing the skin or using scrubs that are hard on our skin.
â€¢ Pressure from tight suiting.
â€¢ Pollution, humidity, dirt and heat.
â€¢ Covering the face for long periods of time with cloth or heavy cosmetics.
How to get rid of acne?
Getting rid of acne involves various techniques including drugs and simple home remedies.
The general cause is considered to be sebum oil so washing the face often helps getting rid of excess oil. Cleansing the face on a regular basis also helps to unclog pores and prevent acne outbreak with a smooth skin. Water based cosmetics should be used, similarly if a cleanser is too hard it may further aggravate acne instead of curing it. Facial massage and exfoliating the skin helps to get rid of dead layers and prevents the plugging of pores and hair follicles.
Salt water, baking soda and water paste, lemon juice, cucumber paste all help in treating acne and soothing the skin. Dermatologist may prescribe oral medicines depending on their prescription.
Recently, the entry of all-natural or herbal acne-treatment kits has brought about a revolutionary change in the world of acne treatment. These kits, unlike medical drugs or surgery, consist of multiple components i.e. masks, lotions, gels,Â moisturisersÂ cleansers etc.,., and, hence, have an ability to address every sign, symptom, type and grade of acne.