What is Acne?
Acne is a widespread skin condition that occurs due to the presence of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and inflamed spots filled with pus (pustules).
Typically, it begins during puberty. It can present as just a few spots on the face, neck, back, and chest, which is experienced by most teenagers at some point. It can also develop into a more substantial issue that may result in acne scarring and can affect self-esteem. It tends to clear up by the late teenage years or early twenties for the majority of individuals.
For some people, though, it can continue long into their adult life.
Causes and Risk Factors of Acne
Acne is triggered when the pores of the skin become congested with oil, dead skin cells, debris, and bacteria. These pores are essentially openings of hair follicles. They house sebaceous glands which produce a lubricating oily substance called sebum. Excessive sebum production, along with clogged pores, leads to the development of acne.
Several factors contribute to the risk of acne, including hormonal changes or imbalances, medication usage, and diet. Hormonal fluctuations play a significant role in acne development, particularly during puberty. Certain medications can also contribute to acne formation as a side effect. Additionally, diet can impact acne; the relationship between specific foods and acne is still a topic of ongoing research.
There is also a hereditary component to acne, as many individuals who develop the condition have a family history of acne. This suggests a genetic predisposition to acne development, making some individuals more likely to have severe symptoms than others.
Why is it treated?
Skin with acne can be itchy and uncomfortable. It can also affect your confidence and self esteem. Makeup that covers the acne can also clog pores, which may worsen the condition or make other skin problems more likely.
Acne symptoms are commonly one or more of:
- Blackheads – Large clogged pores where the melanin from your skin has come into contact with the air (oxidised), which turns it a dark colour.
- Whiteheads – Another type of clogged pore, filled with sebum from the sebaceous glands.
- Pustules – Pimples that are filled with pus, and may be painful or cause irritation.
- Cysts – Larger pus-filled pimples that are deeper in the skin, more likely to be painful and are more likely to cause scarring if treated incorrectly.
Treatment of Acne
The approach to treating acne depends on how severe it is.
For mild acne, establishing a consistent hygiene and skincare routine using gentle products can often resolve the issue. This includes regular cleansing and moisturising with non-comedogenic products.
Over-the-counter (OTC) acne medications are sometimes helpful in alleviating symptoms. These OTC products typically contain active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, and resorcinol. These ingredients work by removing dead skin cells and combating bacteria that contribute to acne.
Alternatively, a Dermatologist may prescribe oral and topical antibiotics to reduce inflammation and eliminate acne-causing bacteria. These medications may be used in conjunction with other treatments for the best results.
In certain situations, your Doctor or Skin Practitioner may recommend specific acne treatments to alleviate symptoms and prevent scarring. These treatments may include chemical peels, specialist skincare products and yellow laser treatment. Chemical peels involve the application of a solution to exfoliate the skin and unclog pores. A yellow laser beam destroys the bacteria that cause the acne, and shrinks the sebaceous gland to reduce the production of sebum. The yellow light also stimulates collagen production and reduces visible small red blood vessels.
It is essential to consult with a skin professional or Dermatologist to determine the most suitable treatment plan based on individual circumstances and the severity of the acne.