Acne is a common skin condition that happens when sebaceous glands at the base of hair follicles under the skin become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. Which leads to outbreaks of lesions, commonly called pimples. Most often, the outbreaks occur on the face but can also appear on the back, chest, and shoulders.
Types of Acne Lesions
Acne causes several types of lesions which include:
- Whiteheads: Plugged hair follicles that stay beneath the skin and produce a white bump.
- Blackheads: Plugged follicles that reach the surface of the skin and open up. They look black on the skin surface because the air discolors the sebum, not because they are dirty.
- Papules: Inflamed lesions that usually appear as small, pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to the touch.
- Pustules or pimples: Papules topped by white or yellow pus-filled lesions that may be red at the base.
- Nodules: Large, painful solid lesions that are lodged deep within the skin.
- Severe nodular acne (sometimes called cystic acne): Deep, painful, pus-filled lesions.
Causes of Acne
Following can lead to the development of acne:
- Excess or high production of sebum.
- Buildup of dead skin cells in the pore.
- Growth of bacteria in the pore.
The following factors may increase your risk for developing acne:
- Age. Acne is more common in teenagers.
- Hormones. An increase in androgens, which are male sex hormones, may lead to acne. These increase in both boys and girls normally during puberty and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy can also cause acne.
- Family history. You may be more likely to get acne if your parents had acne.
- Medications. Certain medications, such as medications that contain hormones, corticosteroids, and lithium, can cause acne.
The following do not cause acne, but may make it worse.
- Pressure from sports helmets, tight clothes, or backpacks.
- Environmental irritants, such as pollution and high humidity.
- Squeezing or picking at blemishes.
- Scrubbing your skin too hard.
The goal of treatment is to help heal existing lesions, stop new lesions from forming, and prevent scarring. Medications can help stop some of the causes of acne from developing, such as abnormal clumping of cells in the follicles, high sebum levels, bacteria, and inflammation.
Topical medicines come in many forms, including gels, lotions, creams, soaps, and pads which you apply to the skin, include:
- Retinoids, which come from vitamin A and can help treat lesions and reduce inflammation. They can also help prevent the formation of acne and help with scarring.
- Antibiotics, which are usually used with other topical medications. Benzoyl peroxide, which kills bacteria and may decrease the production of sebum.
- Resorcinol, which can help break down blackheads and whiteheads.
- Salicylic acid, which helps break down blackheads and whiteheads and also helps reduce the shedding of cells lining the hair follicles.
- Sulfur, which helps break down blackheads and whiteheads.
In some people, topical medicines may cause side effects such as skin irritation, burning, or redness, the doctor may prescribe oral medications, such as:
Antibiotics, which help slow or stop the growth of bacteria and reduce inflammation. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics with other topical therapies and usually for moderate to severe acne, such as severe nodular acne (also called cystic acne).
Retinoids, which work through the blood stream to help treat acne and open up the pore. This allows other medications, such as antibiotics, to enter the follicles and treat the acne. Similar to topical retinoids, taking the medication by mouth can also help prevent the formation of acne and help with scarring
Hormone therapy, used primarily in women, which helps stop the effects of androgens on the sebaceous gland.
Corticosteroids, which help lower inflammation in severe acne, including severe nodular acne. Your doctor may recommend injecting the medication directly into affected areas of your skin.
It’s difficult to prevent acne. But you can take steps at home to help prevent acne after treatment. These steps include:
- washing your face twice a day with an oil-free cleanser
- using an over-the-counter acne cream to remove excess oil
- avoiding makeup that contains oil
- removing makeup and cleaning your skin thoroughly before bed
- showering after exercising
- avoiding tight-fitting clothing
- eating a healthy diet with minimal refined sugars
- reducing stress.