|Acne, Help! There goes my date!|
Acne is caused (also known as zits or pimples), by blocked, infected, oil glands on your face. This happens most during teenage years when androgens - hormones that stimulate oil making - are highest. Some oil gland exits get choked shut by this thick goo, and bacteria eat it - causing a closed comedome or whitehead. This bacterial digestion produces chemicals which are irritating to your skin and cause an inflammatory reaction causing an acne pustule. The area gets red and eventually bursts. Oxygen in the air then changes its color to black - like an apple bite left in the open air causing a blackhead.
The above picture is a microscopic view of acne caused in your skin where: 1 = affected skin, 2 = hair shaft, 3 = oil gland, 4 = bacteria, 5 = oil on surface skin
Common Myths about Acne Care
There are many common myths about acne care such as:
- Acne gets worse if you eat greasy or sweet foods.
- Acne is because your face is dirty. Washing your face more often only removes surface grease and not the deep oils which cause acne.
- Acne is because you have a "hormonal imbalance"- this is true only a minority of acne sufferers. Most people with acne have normal hormone levels for their age.
Picture of acne:
Acne care is aimed at reducing pimple formation and preventing scarring. Acne care options include:
- Benzoyl Peroxide. This acne care topical over the counter lotion or cream kills Propionibacterium acnes - the bacteria responsible for digesting skin oils and creating pustules.
- Sulpha soaps or topicals. These acne preparations are also bacteria toxic.
- Salicylic acid is an antinflammatory which helps reduce the inflammatory redness of acne. It is sometimes combined with benzoyl or sulpha.
- Retinoic acid (Vitamin A) topicals reduce skin oil formation slowing acne.
- Don't pop your acne as this can make your acne scar.
- For more severe acne care, oral tablet antibiotics from a doctor for 3-6 months can keep bacteria load down on your skin reducing pimples.
- For very resistant acne care Accutane - an oral vitamin A analogue - can be used to shut down excess oil skin production.
- In females, birth control pills can reduce acne by changing hormonal skin oil stimulation.
- If you have tried topical acne treatments without success you should see a doctor to step up to prescription strength topicals or oral treatments. This usually costs less than TV products if you have medical insurance.
NB. Remember that most acne is from clogged oily pores. Using moisturizer lotions could make this worse.
Acne Scar Care
The acne care works poorly for blackheads which can be thought of like burnt out oil wells. Blackhead pores are already open, the oil is spent, and the bacteria have moved on; their is no inflammation left. Dermabrasion can be a solution for acne scarring - like using sandpaper to scrub out the old oil of the pores. This is best done by a skin specialist called a dermatologist. Seeing one is no different to seeing your family doctor - choose one in your area and phone to make an appointment.