Acne is probably the most annoying condition in the world. When you have it, you’re not necessarily sick, but it can make you feel dreadful. All those pimples all over your face – the last place you want them to appear.
What Causes Acne?
Acne occurs when the hair follicles in your skin become clogged with oil and inflamed. You can think of pimples as miniature infections and the attempt by your immune system to eliminate them.
Typically, a breakout begins with secretion of oil from pores on the skin’s surface. Oil then moves around on top of the dermis before falling into one of the surrounding follicles. After some time, dead skin and, perhaps, dirt, join the oil leading to an environment in which microbes can thrive. Eventually, some microbes establish a colony, activating the immune system.
When the immune response arrives, it immediately creates redness and inflammation around the spot. Then it begins shuttling fluids to the site to try to dislodge all of the unwanted debris in the pore, leading to the formation of a white head. White heads then make their way to the surface of the skin (in non-cystic acne) and then pop all over your mirror when you squeeze them.
What Triggers Acne?
However, as you might guess, there’s more to acne than that. Many people who have naturally oily skin never develop the condition.
So what’s going on?
In reality, acne is also a function of changes in the body’s hormonal environment. High levels of certain growth factors make the skin more likely to break out, combined with genetics. That’s why acne is so prevalent in teenagerse. Wild swings in hormones in boys and girls lead cause sebaceous glands to enlarge and the skin to become more inflamed. You also see it in women going through menopause in midlife.
There is also a lot of evidence now that diet affects acne. Consuming various foods – particularly diary – may have a detrimental impact. Other foods to avoid include things like white bread, pasta, bagels and chips.
Stress may also have a role to play in acne. By itself, stress won’t cause you to breakout, but it can make acne episodes worse.
Then finally, there are certain medications. Both steroids and testosterone can have a massive effect, producing acne not only on the face, but also on other parts of the body, such as the back and testicles.
Who Is Most At Risk Of Acne?
Different people are at different risks of acne. Those going through hormonal changes, such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause are at the highest risk of breakouts. However, acne is a condition that can affect people at virtually any stage of life.
People who regularly put oils or lotions on their skin may also be at higher risk. External oils (besides those made by the skin) may help drive bacteria into pores, causing inflammation.
Having a family history of acne also puts you at higher risk. If both your parents had acne, there is a higher chance that you will develop it too. Please note, though, that you may be able to mitigate this through simple dietary changes.
Lastly, those who regularly put pressure on their skin or apply friction are at higher risk. Abrasion helps drive oil into pores, making it more likely for breakouts to occur. Holding your phone up to your face or wearing a tight collar, for instance, may not be a good idea.
What Can You Do About Acne?
Washing your face occasionally and improving your diet can help to clear some of the signs and symptoms of common and cystic acne. However, if you find yourself still struggling, then you may want to consult an online pharmacy.
Pharmacies often offer a range of over the counter medications for acne that you don’t need a prescription for. Typically, you apply these to the skin. They often contain a combination of chemical cleaners plus natural antibacterial agents, such as tea tree.
If your acne is particularly severe, you may wish to go and see your doctor. They can prescribe antibiotic treatments and topical lotions that are only available with a prescription.
If you are a woman, then your doctor may also prescribe you combined oral contraceptives. These products combine multiple hormones that change the chemistry of your body over the course of several months. You won’t notice any changes in your acne immediately, but, over time, you should begin to notice substantial differences. Your skin looks smoother and, all of a sudden, you feel more confident. Please note, however, that oral contraceptives are associated with weight gain and some cardiovascular problems.
Doctors can also prescribe anti-androgens. These are another hormone-altering medication that you can use if your regular course of antibiotics isn’t working. These drugs work by blocking the hormones that provoke the sebaceous glands in the skin to produce oil.
There is another nutrient-based treatment that is becoming more popular. Patients are now exploring the benefits of isotretinoin – a form of vitamin A – where they fail to respond to other treatments. Vitamin A appears to help calm the skin and return it to its regular function in extreme cases of acne.
There are also a bunch of therapies available which don’t involve ingesting any drugs. One option is to visit a spa or beauty clinic. They offer non-invasive light-based therapies designed to help clear your pores and destroy any bacteria lurking under the skin.
You can also try getting a chemical peel. This is where a beauty technician applies a mild acid to your face to kill the top layer of skin. Over the following weeks, it flakes off, encouraging new skin to grow up from underneath. Peels work because they force skin cells to behave differently. They cause them a mild level of healthy stress which may prevent the dysfunction that leads to acne.
For cystic acne, drainage and extraction can be necessary to remove boils from under the skin. Mostly, this is a last resort if topical remedies don’t work.