What is Acne?
Acne is an incredibly prevalent medical condition that affects the skin of a patient. The condition causes the breakouts of spots, the over production of oil and even hot and sore patches to appear on the surface of the skin.
In regards to the prevalence of Acne, it’s most common in adolescents and young adults – roughly 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30 experience Acne at some point. Girls are more likely to experience the condition between the ages of 14 and 17, whereas for boys the condition will likely present itself between the ages of 16 and 19.
What Causes Acne?
Sadly, if you’re a teenager reading this – then it’s likely the very fact you’re a hormonal teenager is the reason you’re experiencing Acne. Puberty is primarily a cause of Acne because of the the way it affects the regulation of hormones within the body. Some of the hormones that are affected by puberty react with glands in your body, causing them to produce excessive amounts of oil, also known as sebum. This sebum can find its way into hair follicles causing them to become blocked.
Although the blockages are annoying enough as it is, the over production of sebum interacts strangely with a usually harmless bacteria found on the skin called P.acnes. This interaction makes the usually harmless bacteria act more aggressively. If this bacterium manages to make its way into a hair follicle alongside the sebum, it can cause inflammation, pus and a spot to develop on the surface.
Other Changes in Hormone Regulation
Although Puberty is usually the primary cause of changes to hormone regulation, it isn’t the only significant hormonal change that can occur. For women, menstruation and pregnancy can cause a similar hormonal change in the body – a change that leads to the overproduction of sebum and the aggressive response of the bacterium P.acnes. Medications can also impact hormones and cause Acne to develop.
Genetics also plays a significant factor in whether or not you’re likely to develop Acne. If both of your parents were unlucky enough to develop Acne during their teenage years, then you yourself are 4x more likely to suffer from the skin condition.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Acne?
The primary symptoms of Acne are: the development of spots on the surface of the skin, a significant increase in the production of oil/sebum on the skin as well as areas of skin that become red, inflamed and sore to touch.
Acne can affect almost any part of the body, however it’s most likely to affect the face with the vast majority of those diagnosed with the condition presenting symptoms on their faces. With that being said the condition also affects other places on the body; half of people suffering from Acne have the condition on their backs, and another 15% of those suffering from the condition develop symptoms on their chests.
If you think you might have Acne, be vigilant for the development of one of these 6 spot types the condition is known to produce:
Blackheads – Blackheads often present themselves as either small black or yellowish lumps under the surface of the sufferer’s skin. These lumps do contain some grime that’s gathered in the hair follicle, but that’s not what gives the Blackhead its dark color – that dark black color actually comes from the pigmentation produced in the hair follicles lining. Black heads usually disperse once they are ejected from the skin.
Whiteheads – Although Whiteheads have a similar appearance and name-sake as Blackheads, apart from their color, they’re actually much firmer and do not fully drain or empty when squeezed or ejected.
Papules – Papules develop on the skin and are smallish red lumps that are often inflamed, tender and sore when touched. Papules are usually hard and don’t eject anything when squeezed.
Pustules – Although Pustules have a similar smallish red appeared to Papules, they also have a white tip or head. This white tip tends to be the result of a build up of pus underneath the surface of the skin. Pustules tend to eject this pus by themselves or if gently squeezed.
Nodules – Nodules are relatively large in comparison to the other spots and lumps Acne can cause. Nodules build up slowly underneath the surface of the skin and can become really quite painful and irritating to those suffering from them.
Cysts – Cysts are usually considered the worst spot that Acne can produce. Cysts are large lumps deep under the skin that are filled with pus. These lumps look similar to boils, looking very angry and sore if they become inflamed or irritated. Because of their large size and deep location, Cysts tend to present sufferers of Acne with the most risk as they can often leave the dreaded Acne scars.
Is Acne Contagious?
No, Acne is not contagious or infectious – so you can’t pass it on to other people.
Can Acne Spread to Other Parts of my Body?
Acne can spread to other parts of your body – especially your hands, back and even your chest. As Acne is primarily caused by an overproduction of oil/sebum, and its interaction with the bacterium P.acnes, it is possible for the condition to spread to other parts of your body.
To avoid this, it’s recommended that you practice good hygiene and abide by a cleansing routine that works for you. Make sure to keep your pores as clean as possible using a mild soap or cleanser; however, don’t over wash your skin as this is likely to aggravate your symptoms.
Is there a Cure for Acne?
For most people, Acne is a result of hormonal changes in the body, and the interactions these changes have on oil/sebum production and the bacterium P.acnes. Accordingly, by the time most suffers are in their mid-20’s, the condition has begun to disappear as they move out of puberty.
However, this isn’t always the case and some people suffer with the condition late into adulthood. Data suggests that roughly 5% of women and 1% of men suffer later into their lives with Acne.
Although there is no definite cure for Acne, there are a number of highly-effective prescription-based treatments available if home-care and over-the-counter solutions have failed. Speak to your doctor if your Acne is particularly sore, inflamed or if your spots are usually cystic – there are plenty of options available to help manage the condition.
How Can I Treat my Acne?
There are plenty of options for treating Acne from home without needing to book a medical appointment. Pharmacists also offer a broad range of over-the-counter treatments that can help manage your acne. Here’s a selection of some of the best treatment advice available when it comes to managing Acne:
- Stay Clean – Unless you’re really gross you probably have a good hygiene routine in place! With that being said, make sure you invest in a good brand of mild soap or cleanser and develop a face cleansing routine that works for you. However, when washing your face make sure that you don’t use excessively hot or cold water as this will only aggravate your skin further – try to keep the water you use on the cold end of lukewarm.
- Don’t Over Clean – Now I know we just advised staying clean, but there’s a difference between staying clean and over washing yourself. Try to avoid washing affected areas of skin more than twice a day, over washing affected skin can tend to aggravate the symptoms of Acne – especially if you’re using harsh soaps.
- Avoid Make-Up When You Can – It’s very easy to use make-up as a way of covering up the unpleasant symptoms of Acne, but you could almost see this behaviour as postponing your discomfort only in the short-term. Most make-ups tend to block the pores on the skin, this just aggravates the condition further – this leads to more spots! If you’re going to use make-up, make sure that you use a make-up brand that’s water-based and labelled as non-comedogenic – these products are less likely to clog the pours of your skin and aggravate your Acne.
- Stop Popping your Spots – Although popping your spots is undeniably one of the most satisfying sensations humans can experience, it’s not helping you manage your Acne! In-fact, popping your spots increases the chance of developing Acne scarring. Furthermore popping spots spreads the bacteria P.acnes around your body, likely making your condition much worse. Although spots naturally pop themselves – this can’t be helped – you should avoid forcing spots to burst that aren’t ready. If your spots do pop, I would recommend using one of the many brands of Acne Cream available; these creams often stop the spread of bacteria and aid the healing process to avoid scarring.
Should I Go to the Doctor for Acne?
You should only go to the doctor for Acne if you have exhausted all other options available. Make sure you’ve tried home-care and over-the-counter solutions offered by your local pharmacist before booking an appointment. With that being said, if your spots are particularly large, inflamed or cystic it’s worthwhile to get the opinion of a trained medical professional.
Most cases of Acne clear up with the progression of the body through puberty, however there are stubborn cases that affect men and women into adulthood. If this is the situation you find yourself in, then don’t delay consulting a doctor – there are plenty of available options in helping to manage the aggravating skin condition.