What is acne?
Pimples, zits, spots, outbreaks we’ve all experienced some form of acne at one point in our lives, Acne can appear on the skin when your hair follicles become clogged with oil due to excess sebum production. Acne is a inflammatory condition of the skin that has several features the most commonly known one is the appearance of spots and blemishes on the face or body.
If you get pimples often, especially several at once repeatedly, you may have acne.
What causes acne?
Okay, so both your skin and mine have tiny holes, these are called pores. Unfortunately, with pores they are prone to getting blocked with either oil bacteria, dead skin cells, and dirt. Think of it like this your skin being suffocated. When this occurs, you may develop a pimple, sometimes also called a zit or blemish.
There are many theories on the causes of acne whether it be a hormonal imbalance and/or a build-up of bacteria on the skin due to an overactive production of sebum (as mentioned earlier, this process plays a significant role). While acne doesn’t pose a serious risk to your overall health, it can still be painful, particularly if you have severe acne.
Over time, acne might also cause scarring. Which can contribute to emotional distress and or feelings of anxiety.
Who gets acne?
This is something we have all been through at some stage of our lives, during this time our sebaceous glands are activated, and a surge of sex hormones trigger many different processes initiating the onset of puberty.
Therefore, the widespread belief that acne is a condition amongst teenagers/young adults however it is important to note that acne is multifactorial – there are many elements that contribute to it from genetics to lifestyle and diet therefore it can present in later years. What are the symptoms of acne?
Breakouts in the skin surrounding facial/body areas which cause:
Uneven Skin texture
Inflammation and swelling
Sensitive skin/painful to touch
Types of Acne:
Acne is classified into two main groups it’s important to note it is the substances and the underlying causes of clogged pores that differentiate inflamed acne from non-inflamed acne. We will detail each of their characteristics further below.
1. Inflammatory Acne:
Inflammatory acne is largely due to how the body’s immune system responds to "regular" acne. It can also be due to irritation (certain products or ingredients), genetics, hormones, diet, lifestyle etc:
This type of acne is usually painful, embedded deep in the layers of the skin, red in colour, swollen and commonly affect the most prominent parts of the face like the nose, forehead and chin. Inflammatory acne can last anywhere between weeks/months depending on the severity and can leave permeant dark scarring.
There are four types of inflammatory acne: Pustules:
Small bumps on the skin that contain white liquid pus, surrounded by redness and inflammation. The skin around the bump is inflamed when the infection continues to spread the bump then becomes hard and painful, resulting in a cyst. Pustules are commonly found in clusters within the same area.
CAUSES: Typically, by a hormonal imbalances or changes in the body, which forms when clusters of leftover white blood cells are finished fulfilling their job of fighting the infection. Pustules can also occur from allergic reactions to food, environmental allergens and "regular" acne mostly experienced by teens and young adults.
Papules appear as small, bumps accompanied by redness, inflammation and irritation. These appear on the surface of skin, are firm to the touch and do not contain pus.
Papules, like other acne lesions are likely to develop on the face, back, chest, and shoulders, as these areas have the most oil-producing sebaceous glands.
CAUSES: Many factors have been identified as contributing to acne formation such as hormones, stress, diet. All of these are linked to increased sebum production. In addition, a poor skin care routine can also contribute to breakouts.
Nodules are large, inflamed tender breakouts they are firm and painful bumps, nodules feel like hard knots under the skin and usually stay under the surface though sometimes they may develop a whitehead. Nodular acne can affect your face, back, chest and buttocks.
They are far more severe than regular blemishes and can take much longer to heal. Nodular acne is more common in young, biologically male people. Teens and young adult males often get acne nodules on both their faces and bodies.
CAUSES: Acne nodules are thought to be caused by several factors, including:
Overactive oil glands called sebaceous glands
A large build-up of dead skin cells in pores
An overgrowth of acne causing bacteria
An increase in androgen hormones (which can lead to more production of thicker skin oil)
Cysts are large swollen red and white bumps that don't have a head they are the most well-known type of inflammatory acne. Cysts are similar to Nodules except they are filled with pus. They occur below the surface at the deepest and are the biggest in terms of size.
They should be treated promptly and aggressively as they can leave permanent scarring to the skin. Don't attempt to pop a cyst as it will likely spread the infection deeper below and another cyst will likely form in its place or nearby.
CAUSES: Cysts occur when the skin is blocked with bacteria, sebum and/or dead skin cells and are typically due to infection.
2. Non-Inflammatory Acne:
This involves whiteheads and blackheads and is the least severe category when it comes to classifying acne. Non-inflammatory acne comes in two distinguishable main forms, these are known as open and closed comedones.
Both are similar types of acne, and both start with a clogged pore, likely due to excess oil, bacteria or skin cell production. The good news is these are relatively easy to treat in comparison to inflammatory acne categories.
There are two types of non-inflammatory acne:
Open Comedones aka Blackheads:
A blackhead is an accumulation of dead skin cells and sebaceous matter within the follicle. The top of the pore is slightly open, exposing the trapped sebum to oxygen, which turns it the colour black.
CAUSES: The most common cause is oil gland over production which can happen during hormonal shifts, such as puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy. Blackheads can also form when hair follicles are irritated or when dead skin cells do not shed regularly.
Closed Comedones aka Whiteheads:
Soft closed comedones develop when a plug of cellular debris and oil is blocked within the pore and are covered by a layer of dead skin cells. The top of the pore is closed off, so the trapped sebum remains its natural yellowish, whiteish colour. The oil plug itself remains liquid or soft.
CAUSES: One cause of blocked pores is hormonal changes, which are common triggers of acne. Certain life stages can increase the amount of sebum, or oil your pores produce. The increased oil production causes clogged pores and whiteheads. These stages include: