What is Acne?
Apr 14, 2011
Acne comes from an old Greek word that means "skin eruption." It is a disease that affects the skin’s oil glands.
American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) describe acne in detail:
Acne is a skin condition that consists of pimples, deeper lumps (cysts or nodules), and plugged pores (blackheads and whiteheads), that occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and even the upper arms.
- Acne usually begins in puberty, but the condition is not restricted to any age group. Adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s— even into their 50s— can develop acne.
- Acne is caused by three major factors:
- Overproduction of oil by enlarged oil glands in the skin.
- Blockage of the hair follicles that release oil.
- Growth of bacteria, called P. acnes, within the hair follicles.
- Scientific research has led to many new acne therapies and changes in existing treatment options.
How Does Acne Develop?
Sometimes, the hair, sebum, and skin cells clump together into a plug. The bacteria in the plug cause swelling. Then when the plug starts to break down, a pimple grows.
Types of Acne
There are many types of pimples. The most common types are:
- Whiteheads- These are pimples that stay under the surface of the skin.
- Blackheads- These pimples rise to the skin’s surface and look black. The black color is not from dirt.
- Papules- These are small pink bumps that can be tender.
- Pustules- These pimples are red at the bottom and have pus on top.
- Nodules- These are large, painful, solid pimples that are deep in the skin.
- Cysts- These deep, painful, pus-filled pimples can cause scars.
Who Gets Acne?
Acne is the most common skin disease. People of all races and ages get acne. But it is most common in teenagers and young adults. An estimated 80 percent of all people between the ages of 11 and 30 have acne outbreaks at some point. Some people in their forties and fifties still get acne.
What Causes Acne?
The cause of acne is unknown. Doctors think certain factors might cause it:
- The hormone increase in teenage years (this can cause the oil glands to plug up more often)
- Hormone changes during pregnancy
- Starting or stopping birth control pills
- Heredity (if your parents had acne, you might get it, too)
- Some types of medicine
- Greasy makeup.
How Should People With Acne Care for Their Skin?
Here are some ways to care for skin if you have acne:
- Clean skin gently. Use a mild cleanser in the morning, evening, and after heavy workouts. Scrubbing the skin does not stop acne. It can even make the problem worse.
- Try not to touch your skin. People who squeeze, pinch, or pick their pimples can get scars or dark spots on their skin.
- Shave carefully. If you shave, you can try both electric and safety razors to see which works best. With safety razors, use a sharp blade. Also, it helps to soften your beard with soap and water before putting on shaving cream. Shave lightly and only when you have to.
- Stay out of the sun. Many acne medicines can make people more likely to sunburn. Being in the sun a lot can also make skin wrinkle and raise the risk of skin cancer.
- Choose makeup carefully. All makeup should be oil free. Look for the word “noncomedogenic” on the label. This means that the makeup will not clog up your pores. But some people still get acne even if they use these products.
- Shampoo your hair regularly. If your hair is oily, you may want to shampoo daily.
What Things Can Make Acne Worse?
Some things can make acne worse:
- Changing hormone levels in teenage girls and adult women 2 to 7 days before their period starts
- Pressure from bike helmets, backpacks, or tight collars
- Pollution and high humidity
- Squeezing or picking at pimples
- Hard scrubbing of the skin.
Read more articles on Acne.