An extensive guide to understanding one of the most frequent skin problems
Acne skin care is something almost everyone was, is or will be preoccupied with. As acne manifests among most teenagers and sometimes sticks through adulthood, it’s hardly news to anyone worldwide. It is actually the 8th most common disease in the world! Understanding why and how it appears leads to an ideal treatment for the affected skin areas and a better general cosmetic care.
1. Essential Information about Acne
Acne manifests through blackheads, whiteheads, greasy skin, pimples and can sometimes leave scars behind. It usually affects the face, upper chest and back, as these areas have skin with a greater number of oil glands. Its causes are genetic in almost all of the cases, and except for smoking, there is no other behavioral cause yet discovered (like diet, cleanliness or exposure to sunlight). Sometimes, it’s triggered by an increase of a bacteria usually present on the skin, called Propionibacterium acnes. Depending on how badly it manifests, its results can lead to anxiety and reduced self-esteem.
Both sexes encounter an increase in androgens during puberty, with an occurrence rate of 80-90% in Western teenagers, but affects individuals before and after this range of age. It is less common in adulthood, but it still continues for about half of those who had it during their adolescence. Nowadays there are certainly a lot of options for treatment and procedures and a wide range of products to meet the needs of acne prone skin. What is essential is that the cause is properly identified and measures are taken accordingly, so that results are quick and efficient. With a good skin regimen, acne can be controlled.
Acne can be mild, moderate and severe. Categorization is essential in determining the appropriate treatment regimen. While mild acne generally manifests open and closed comedones limited to the face, severe acne is characterized by an increase of inflammatory papules and pustules, with a presence as well on the face as also on the body. Severe acne involves an extensive presence of the lesions on the trunk, while nodules and cysts are the characteristic facial lesions.
3. Signs and Symptoms
Although its appearance varies with skin color, acne comes along with an increased oil secretion (seborrhea), comedones, pustules, nodules, sometimes scarring. Cysts sometimes manifest in the case of severe acne – and they need particular care. The term nodulocystic is used to sometimes describe some severe cases of inflammatory acne. Acne, as it is very common, can develop at any age (even directly during adult life) and can occur on various areas of the body like the chest or the back, the scalp, neck, upper arms and shoulders.
4. Cause and Diagnosis
Among other reasons, acne appears when the pores become clogged with bacteria and dead skin cells. Excessive secretion of oil from the glands is combined with naturally and normally occurring bacteria and dead skin cells, which block the hair follicles. The secretions build up beneath the clogged pore and provide the environment for the pimple to form.
Besides this “mechanical” explanation, acne builds up for reasons linked to psychological stress, genetics, hormones, infections and lifestyle. Even if it’s a very commonly spread health issue, a proper diagnosis can be set after a visit at the dermatologist, who is supposed to analyze your hormonal past and your previous health issues, as well as your skin complexion and finally, recommend a specific treatment and regimen.
Diagnosis is set according to a few techniques, two of the multiple scales for grading acne severity being leeds acne grading technique and Cook’s acne grading scale. The first one counts and categorizes lesions into inflammatory and non-inflammatory, using a range from 0 to 10, while the second uses photographs to grade severity from 0 to 8. Age, other skin disorders (as dermatitis or keratosis pilaris, rosacea), facial redness, the presence of comedones all contribute to a differentiation in each case of acne, which makes the visit to a health professional mandatory in order to get a correct diagnosis and treatment.
Acne Vulgaris, the most common form of acne, comes in three manifestations:
- Non-inflammatory acne: whiteheads and blackheads appear, mild manifestation.
- Inflammatory acne: pustules and macules appear, moderate manifestation.
- Cystic acne: cysts and nodules appear, can lead to scarring, severe manifestation.
Also a form of acne, but not Vulgaris, is Acne Rosacea, a form of disease that cannot be cured, but can be treated, with unknown causes. Serious forms of acne that must be treated by a dermatologist are gram-negative folliculitis, acne conglobata or pyoderma faciale.
Non-inflammatory acne forms through microcomedones, which turn into comedones, follicles producing oil that get filled with bacteria, dirt, tiny hairs, dead skin cells. If the comedone is open, sebum oxidizes and the result is the appearance of blackheads. If the comedone is closed, trapped sebum remains below the skin, which causes an infection. Inflammation rapidly appears, together with redness and irritation, containing the result of whiteheads. For this level of acne, usually cosmetics are enough in terms of treatment. See below for more information.
Inflammatory acne evolves through three stages, usually: it starts with papules, develops into pustules and ends with macules. Papules appear as small bumps and occur when the wall of a hair follicle breaks and caves in. Pustules are visible several days after papules have formed, and they can be large and painful. Lastly, macules are the red spots on the face as acne begins to heal, which should not be picked, because they might lead to scarring.
The severe form of inflammatory acne, cystic acne, can be extremely painful. Cysts form beneath the surface of the skin and they are build-ups of white blood cells, oils and fluids.
Many options are available for acne treatment, depending on its level of seriousness, and they range from lifestyle changes to medication and procedures. Specific treatment with dermato-cosmetics and cosmetics, alongside natural remedies are the most frequent recommendations.
Regarding lifestyle changes, a change in the hygienic and cosmetic routine is a must, together with eating fewer carbs, especially sugar and giving up on smoking or at least reducing the number of smoked cigarettes. Other common treatments include topical benzoyl peroxide, azelaic and salicylic acid, antibiotics and retinoids, as well as birth control in some womens’ cases. Acne is supposed to respond best to early and aggressive treatment, and as it cannot be cured, it is best to not let it aggravate.
6. Products and Suggestions
- Oily skin
Oily skin needs special acne skin care and it’s no exaggeration: stripping the skin of its moisture and hydration is to be avoided. Complementary to removing the excess sebum and a gentle exfoliation has to be a non-oil moisturizer, because it should balance out the effects of a potentially drying acne treatment. As far as gentle exfoliation is concerned, some remedies are effective and easy to make at home, using various natural resources like coffee or sugar. The cleanser and moisturizer ideally needs to be a dermato-cosmetic or a specialized drug store cosmetic. Oily skin does not respond well to excessive scrubbing, on the contrary: that can worsen the issue.
- Combination skin
Well, this might be the challenging hot topic. Combination skin is difficult to care for in case of acne because different areas of the face need different types of remedies connected to a diet, the outside weather, and lifestyle changes. One needs to keep the skin clean without drying it, while also clarifying pimples and keeping the moisture level closest to normal. Optimally, different products need to be applied to the parts of the face they are suited for and gentle exfoliation is recommended as a part of the routine, when there are no active acne eruptions.
- Dry skin
Using harsh cleansers and treatments meant for other skin types usually leads to a dried up and sensitive skin. When acne manifests on dry skin, there must be a constant effort to achieve balance between skin cleanliness, treating the eruptions and preventing future breakouts, all this without removing vital moisture. The treatments in this case need to be lighter and less aggressive, like gentle cleansing products and creamy, soothing hydrating masks. In this case as well, gentle exfoliation is encouraged.
It is advised to be sceptic regarding organic or natural remedies to be found on the Internet in cases of aggravated or serious acne. The result may be the opposite of what one expects or simply inefficient.
In most cases, a dermatologist’s pick is recommended instead of a random “miraculous” overpromising product from the drug store.
For Your Information
Reviews and user information indicate some particular cases in African American adults, as some products can cause hypopigmentation, although the treatments are the same no matter the racial group (topical medications, retinoids, oral medication, hormonal treatment etc). Darker skin types need to avoid benzoyl peroxide in high concentrations, as it can cause irritation. If there was ever a curiosity related to sun block products, then yes, they are beneficial even in the case of black skin, as the sun can darken the scars that acne left or leaves behind, and the marks can become quite visible with aging.
The safest place to get tips & tricks, appropriate top advice, best product recommendation, personalized anti acne treatment, free testing options for a line of remedies and generally good information applied to your specific case is in your dermatologist’s office. Self-care can be appropriate in mild cases, although acne can increase or aggravate in no time and one might regret not visiting a specialist while still in the safety zone. A good skin care penetrating the daily routine and one’s healthy habits’ system should be by default. Proper acne skin care could save one a lot of stress and anxiety!