Acne is a common skin problem that develops as a result of a hormonal imbalance. Most individuals develop acne during adolescence. Adolescents most often experience acne during puberty when their bodies begin to change into adults. However, other age groups are also affected. Individuals may also suffer from baby acne and adult acne, as well.
People with oily skin are more apt to develop acne because the pores become clogged with oil, hair or dead skin. When the skin excretes excess oil known as sebum, it may cause a bacterial infection. Sebum is an oily, waxy type substance that is excreted from the sebaceous glands of the skin. Sebum is also responsible for promoting soft, moist and pliable skin. This infection prompts the skin to become inflamed and the acne forms from the inflammation.
In normal skin, dead cells shed periodically to make room for new cells to form. Some people shed cells rapidly and evenly, other individuals do not. If this process does not happen naturally, some individuals may need an exfoliant to accelerate the process. The process of removing dead cells is often referred to as sloughing.
When the cells do not shed evenly, the dead cells stick together and form a plug. The plug may trap the oil in the skin and keep bacteria lodged in the hair follicle.
The trapped oil will form a lump and sometimes fill with pus. Pus appears when the body’s defense system sends white blood cells to attack the bacteria lodged in the hair follicle. The pimple formation process occurs over the course of 2 to 3 weeks.
Acne problems may afflict all body parts, such as neck, back, shoulders, chest, arms, or most commonly, the face. If the problem is unmanageable with home remedies, many people need to seek the assistance of a dermatologist. The dermatologist may prescribe topical gels or oral medication.
Acne has many common and medical names associated with the condition. Several of the terms used to describe acne are listed below:
- Acne Vulgaris
Despite what acne is called, it can become an embarrassing problem. Most individuals who have only a few pimples desire to be free of them immediately. The common condition is called “mild acne,” when there are a few pimples present on the body. “Severe acne” describes a major outbreak of 100 pimples or more and could affect any part of the body. When the pimples are red, painful, solid, or larger, they are referred to as zits.
Acne symptoms vary depending upon the condition. There are several types of acne that will be discussed. Each type is listed below:
This is the most common type of acne. This is the general term used to refer to acne. This term describes acne that is of different shapes, colors, and sizes. This type of acne may be large and deep set. Acne vulgaris may also be painful and inflamed. Scars or cysts may form on the face if not cared for properly. The hair follicle may become clogged and form acne vulgaris. When the pore is clogged, white pus will form inside the raised bump on the skin.
The papule is red and inflamed. There is no clear head associated with this particular type of acne. The acne is usually small, pink, and tender to the touch. Experts advise papule sufferers not to squeeze them as it exacerbates the problem.
Pustules or Pimples
Pustules usually possess a white or yellow pus filled head with a red circular base. The area is inflamed. Squeezing this type of pimple is often prescribed. Pimples are very similar to whiteheads.
Cysts are pus-filled acne that look similar to a nodule in appearance. The cyst may be very painful. However, squeezing the cyst may cause an even greater infection. Experts advise patients not to aggravate a cyst.
Nodules are large acne spots that are often painful. Most of the inflammation occurs under the skin. The nodule is hard to the touch. Dermatologists advise patients not to squeeze the nodule.
Whiteheads occur when a pore becomes blocked by sebum, bacteria, dead skin or hair. When a whitehead forms, the pore is completely blocked with one of the aforementioned. The raised portion will appear white on the surface. Whiteheads typically disappear faster than blackheads.
Blackheads develop when the pore is partially blocked. The blockage may be a result of bacteria, sebum, or dead skin cells. The skin’s pigment or melanin is what causes the blackhead to become black in color. The black color is a result of oxidized keratin.
- Acne begins to form when oil, dead skin, or hair clogs the skin’s pores. If an infection forms, redness and pus will develop.
- Imbalanced hormones are a primary cause of acne or pimples. Adolescents entering puberty have a hormonal imbalance. The imbalance increases the likelihood that acne will develop.
- Chocolate or greasy foods in moderation will not promote acne. However, an imbalanced diet will exacerbate the situation. Excessive fried food, junk food and saturated food may promote acne if consumed in excess.
- Food with a high glycemic index, such as carbohydrates may promote acne development. Chocolate has a low glycemic index and may not contribute to the formation of acne.
- Individuals with low levels of Vitamin A are more prone to acne than those with high levels of Vitamin A.
- Acne is suspected to be genetic. If a parent has severe acne, the offspring will most likely develop acne as well.
- Females may develop acne before, after, and during their menstrual cycle due to hormonal imbalance.
- Non-comedogenic cosmetics are recommended to reduce the chances of acne break outs. Some cosmetics will clog pores and cause acne.
- Some abrasive exfoliants may cause pimples to form.
- Oily skinned individuals who use oily moisturizers may be exacerbating their skin condition.
- Stress causes imbalances that may trigger a hormonal imbalance. This may cause the skin to break out and develop more pimples.
- Lack of proper hygiene may cause acne to develop.
- Touching the face with dirty hands may cause acne to develop.
People with acne often suffer from embarrassment due to their condition. The condition may limit one’s social life and cause severe anxiety. The psychological aspect of the disease is often debilitating to those who suffer from it. The condition is not life threatening. However, if acne spreads to undesirable places on the body, such as the face, neck or torso, the individual will be less likely to engage in social gatherings.
Because acne is an embarrassing condition, the condition should be treated promptly to avoid social withdrawal that often accompanies the disease. In order to prevent acne, dermatologists recommend nutritional balance and proper skin care. Listed below are tips that will help to prevent acne:
- Moisturize on a daily basis, but only if skin is rough after washing.
- Use an astringent to remove excess oil.
- Water-based products are recommended. These products are preferred to oil-based and petroleum products.
- If your skin is oily apply a honey mask once per week to remove excess oils. Honey is also a disinfectant and will heal minor blemishes. It will also destroy bacteria present on the skin.
- Wash the face twice per day with a sulfer-based soap. Smoothly remove the dead skin. Do not scrub.
- Long hair may contribute to acne. Some experts will advise individuals to cut their hair short. The hair contains oil and the dust particles from the hair may get on the face and exacerbate the condition.
- Wash the hair frequently to avoid breakouts.
- Skin needs nutrition also. Take a multi-vitamin daily.
- Chromium supplements heal the skin quickly. Take chromium daily.
- Vitamin A reduces sebum production. This vitamin will also protect the skin and prevent acne.
- Drink 8 glasses of water each daily. Water clears the body of toxins and hydrates the skin.
- Remove makeup before going to bed. Those who desire to wear makeup should use mineral-based or water-based makeup.
- Some experts advise not to wear cold creams or lotions to bed. However, this is only advisable if the person has oily skin.
Test and Diagnosis Considerations
Dermatologists will diagnose acne through a visual evaluation, typically. The physician will examine the patient for the amount of inflammation present, the location of the acne, and the severity of the acne.
Most dermatologists classify the acne according to the following grades:
Grade I acne is a mild form of acne which will usually consist of blackheads, whiteheads or milia. Minor pimples may also be considered as Grade I acne. There is very little inflammation associated with this type of acne. Most Grade I acne can be treated with over-the-counter medication.
Grade II acne is a moderate form of acne. This level of breakout will consist of a greater number of blackheads and whiteheads. Papules and pustules are present more frequently with this type of acne. While Grade II acne is treatable with over-the-counter medications, it is advisable to seek the help of a physician if the situation has not improved in 6 to 8 weeks.
Grade III acne describes moderate to severe acne. More inflammation and redness are present in Grade III acne. Additionally, the number of papules and pustules will be greater in number. Nodules may also be present with this type of acne. When diagnosed with this type of acne, a dermatologist will recommend a treatment or regimen to alleviate the problem.
Grade IV describes the most severe form of acne. This type of acne may also be referred to as cystic acne. The skin will be consumed by pustules, nodules, blackheads, whiteheads and cysts. The inflammation is the most pronounced in this form of acne development. Most often the acne appears not only in the face, but other parts of the body as well. This severe form of acne must be treated by a dermatologist for favorable results.
Some conditions may look remarkably similar to acne, but will be diagnosed as a different condition. Patients should be aware of these conditions. The treatments will differ dramatically. Some of these conditions are listed below:
The nose and cheek area are red and full of papules and pustules.
Inflamed hair follicles cause bumps or pustules.
Small bumps develop on the upper arms, thighs and buttocks of people who have this condition. The bumps often resemble “goose bumps” and make the skin rough to the touch.
Milaria rubra are small red bumps that may develop on the surface of the skin. The condition develops from excessive heat exposure. The condition may be commonly referred to as “heat rash.”
Herbal and Home Remedies
Since ancient times, people have used home remedies that help achieve a glowing complexion. Home remedies are inexpensive and easy to prepare.
Several of the most effective home remedies are listed below:
- To cleanse pores and release toxins, try a masque made from baking soda and water
- Use eggs whites for dry skin
- Use honey for oily skin
- Drink plenty of water
- Adopt a healthy diet full of nutrients
- Lemon reduces blemishes and also lightens them. Rub a lemon peel onto the skin along with sugar. Wash it off in 10 minutes.
- Gram flour, turmeric powder, lemon juice and curd may also be a good facial masque. Apply on a regular basis for the best results.
- Mix grated potatoes with lemon juice and honey. Apply the mixture to the face. Allow it to remain on the face for around 20 minutes. Potatoes will act as a bleaching agent on the skin. Rinse with a mild soap and water.
- Apply a clay-based or sandlewood-powder based face pack to the skin. Wash the face with medicated soap and lukewarm water.
- Neem leaves possess antibiotic agents that may cure acne. To promote blemish free skin, boil the leaves in water and strain the leaves. Splash the Neem water onto the face as many times as possible.
- Tea Tree Oil
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Detoxification with a lemon, cayenne pepper and honey mixture
- Zinc administered orally
Dermatologists will recommend treatments for acne patients. The physicians will typically prescribe gels. When using gels, dermatologists will recommend that the patient avoid the sun. The gels have been known to cause irritation or burning sensation on the skin.
Acne creams are available over-the-counter for mild acne. Dermatologists recommend a product with either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Follow the directions on the label for the best results. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria known as “Propionibacteria.” This product is sold in strengths ranging from 2.5 percent to 10 percent.
Products containing benzoyl peroxide are as follows:
- Benzaderm Gel
- MD Formulations Benzoyl Peroxide 10
- Glytone 10 percent Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Gel
Sulfer and Resorcinol are helpful in reducing the buildup of dead skin cells and excess oil. Historically, sulfur has been used for a half century to prevent acne breakouts. Each product is available over-the-counter in strengths of 2 percent, 5 percent and up to 8 percent.
Products that contain resorcinol and sulfur are as follows:
- Rezamid Lotion
- Glytone Flesh Tinted Acne Treatment Lotion
- Clearasil Medicated Blemish Cream
- Clearasil Medicated Blemish Stick
Salicylic acid is a natural exfoliant that aids in the sloughing process. The agent allows skin to shed more evenly and naturally. Pores are less likely to become blocked and breakouts are less likely to occur when using this product. Salicylic acid is also effective on whiteheads and blackheads. The product may be found in strengths ranging from 0.5 percent to 2 percent. Salicylic acid is available in cleansing pads, cleansers and lotions.
Some products containing this effective agent are listed below:
- Dermalogica Medicated Clearing Gel
- Oxy Products
- Noxema Products
Alcohol and Acetone
Alcohol and acetone are products used for oily skin types. The products work by removing excess oils from the skin. Alcohol is an antimicrobial agent that reduces bacteria that causes acne.
Both of these products are found in toners, astringents and cleansers.
- Glytone Acne Treatment Toner
- Tyrosum Liquid Acne Skin Cleanser
The products are often found in kits or as a part of a regimen. The most effective regimens include a cleanser, a toner or astringent, a moisturizer and a cleansing mask or exfoliant. Each person is challenged with finding the appropriate regimen for their skin. All skin types are different, and each person must be evaluated prior to selecting an appropriate regimen.
Some of the manufacturers of regimen kits include:
- Mary Kay
- Acne Free
- L’Oreal’s Acne Response
Prescription Acne Treatments
- Other Oral Medications to balance hormones
Some oral medications include:
- Tetracycline Antibiotics
Patients who suffer from cystic acne may seek relief from surgical lancing. Surgical lancing includes the process of draining the acne with a needle. Laser surgery treatments, similar to hair removal, may also reduce acne.
Potential Side Effects
- Stay out of the sun when using prescribed gels as they may cause irritation to the skin.
- Do not use more than one acne treatment at a time. Discontinue the use of one product and continue the next for maximum results.