Acne, also called acne vulgaris or common acne, is an inflammatory condition that affects the skin on the face, the chest, shoulders and the back. The condition begins in the sebaceous glands and hair follicles under the skin before showing up on the surface of the skin.
While acne can affect a person of any age, it is most common in males and females during the teenage years. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 85 percent of young people aged between 12 and 24 years get acne. Acne also affects 15 percent of adult women.1)
Causes of Acne
The real cause of acne is unknown. However, it occurs when blockage develops in skin pores leading to inflammation. Infection may also develop in the pores.
The sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum which passes through skin pores to the surface of the skin. The function of sebum is to keep skin lubricated and moist. If, however, blockage occurs in the skin pores, inflammation can follow which can lead to pimples or even acne.
Factors that can trigger or worsen acne include:
- Hormonal changes such as those that occur during puberty and in women as a result of their menstrual cycle
- Skin inflammation that may also cause reddening of skin
- Production of excessive oil by the sebaceous glands
- Infection by bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes
- Dead skin buildup in skin pores
- Some medications including anabolic steroids and corticosteroids
- Ingredients in some personal care products
- Vigorous scrubbing of skin
- Squeezing pimples
Symptoms of Acne
Different types of acne present with different symptoms including the following:
Whiteheads are a common symptom of acne. These are small bumps under the skin, with tiny white tips. Whiteheads are closed skin pores.
Blackheads are another common symptom of acne. These are prominent bumps on the surface of the skin that are blackish in color. Blackheads are a sign of open, plugged skin pores.
Nodules are large, painful bumps that feel hard to touch. A nodule is painful because it is embedded deep in the layers of skin with only a small portion of it visible on the skin surface.
Cysts are prominent, pus-containing, painful bumps on the skin surface. Cysts may leave behind scars when they heal.
Pimples or pustules are pus-containing bumps that appear on the surface of the skin with a red hue at the base and pus at the tip.2)
Acne vs Pimples
Many people mistake pimples for acne. This is natural because, pimples are a common feature of some types of acne. However, not all pimples constitute acne. In fact, you can have pimples without having acne. And although pimples are one symptom of acne, you can have other symptoms and not pimples.
Pimples develop when a few follicles become blocked by sebum and dead cells. This kind of pimple does not spread and usually disappears once the blockage clears. On the other hand; and while acne develops when follicles are blocked, acne symptoms are more widespread because more follicles are affected. Besides, acne is difficult to get rid of, and generally recurrs.
How to Protect Yourself From Acne
Acne can be very difficult to get rid of. However, there are ways protect your skin from this menace.
Here are 9 ways to protect yourself from acne:
1) Don’t pop pimples
If you get the occasional pimple, you may be tempted to pop it. Unfortunately, this habit can spread bacteria if they are present in the pimpled follicle. So, don’t give in to that urge. If you do, the simple pimple might multiply, affect other follicles and develop into acne.
2) Clean your face gently
You probably think that scrubbing your face every so often keeps it healthy and free from blemishes. However, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, gentle cleaning of your face and nearby skin, including your shoulders, chest and upper back with warm water and soap can give better results. After washing, apply an oil-free moisturizer to prevent skin from becoming too dry. Repeat this twice a day for better results.
3) Refrain from applying excess oil on your hair
You probably use oil on your hair to improve its management. However, if you apply too much oil, a significant amount of it may end up on your face where it might block skin pores. If this happens in the long-term, it might lead to acne.
4) Avoid foods associated with acne
While there is no research study to prove that certain foods cause acne, observations suggest that there may be merit in this. Foods high in sugar like cakes, cookies, pies and some milk products may trigger or worsen acne. If you think certain foods could be causing breakouts on your skin, do yourself a favor and avoid them as much as possible.3)
5) Avoid oily skincare products
Acne develops as a result of blocked follicles or irritated. And while the blockage may happen from the inside, topical oily products such as makeup can also lead to blocked pores. If this happens, inflammation and even infection may occur in the sebaceous glands and cause acne. Look out for noncomedogenic products which are designed for people who are wary of acne.
Stress is one of the possible triggers of acne. This means that, if you would like to protect yourself from acne, you need to relax and keep yourself as free from stress as possible. Studies show that women are more likely to get acne due to stress than men. Of course, you cannot totally avoid the stresses of life, but you can do something to keep yourself relaxed in spite of them. You can do this through meditation, yoga, physical exercise, taking a warm bath before bed, walking and spending time in nature.4)
7) Steam your face
Steaming your face can keep it clean and free of excess oil. It also clear blocked skin pores and hair follicles. Put boiling water in a large bowl and using a large towel, cover your head over the bowl. Remain in this position for about five minutes. Do this twice a week to maintain a glowing, healthy skin, free from pimples and acne.
8) Exercise regularly
Physical exercise helps the body to relax. It also improves circulation and promotes sweating. All this has a positive impact on the health of your skin. While exercising, avoid clothes or equipment that rubs against your skin because this may cause irritation and even trigger acne.
9) Eat more fruits and vegetables
Like the rest of your body, your skin needs good nutrition for good health. Improve your skin nutrition by including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fiber in your diet. Foods rich in omega-3 such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, grass-fed beef, kale and navy beans fight inflammation and can help people with acne.5)
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