This week You! takes a look at some of the ways that can help you prevent acne...
Acne (acne vulgaris, common acne) is a disease of the hair follicles of the face, chest, and back that affects almost all teenagers during puberty. It is not caused by bacteria, although bacteria play a role in its development. It is not unusual for some women to develop acne in their mid to late 20s. Acne vulgaris is typical teenage acne which is characterised by three types of lesions: the comedo or blackhead, the inflammatory papule; and the pustule or pimple.
Acne appears on the skin as occluded pores (comedones, also known as blackheads or whiteheads), tender red bumps (also known as pimples or zits), pustules (bumps containing pus), and occasionally as cysts (the deep pimples and boils of cystic acne).
One can do a lot to treat acne using products available at a drugstore or cosmetic counter that do not require a prescription. However, for tougher cases of acne, one should consult a physician for treatment options.
Not one factor causes acne. It occurs when sebaceous (oil) glands attached to the hair follicles are stimulated at the time of puberty or due to other hormonal changes. Sebum (oil) is a natural substance that lubricates and protects the skin. Associated with increased oil production is a change in the manner in which the skin cells mature, predisposing them to plug the follicular pore. The plug can appear as a whitehead if it is covered by a thin layer of skin, or if exposed to the air, the darker exposed portion of the plug is called a blackhead. The plugged hair follicle gradually enlarges, producing a bump. As the follicle enlarges, the wall may rupture, allowing irritating substances and normal skin bacteria access into the deeper layers of the skin, ultimately producing inflammation. Inflammation near the skin’s surface produces a pustule; deeper inflammation results in a papule (pimple); if the inflammation is deeper still, it forms a cyst.
People often associate different factors to the cause of acne. Let’s find what they are...
Junk food: While these foods may not be good for overall health, they don’t play an important causal role in acne. Although some recent studies have implicated a high-carbohydrate diet, milk, and pure chocolate in aggravating acne, these findings are far from established.
Dirt: Blackheads are oxidised oil, not dirt. Sweat does not cause acne and is produced by entirely separate glands in the skin. On the other hand, excessive washing can dry and irritate the skin.
Stress: Some people get so upset by their pimples that they pick at them and make them last longer. Stress, however, does not play much of a direct role in causing acne.
In occasional patients, the following may be contributing factors:
Heredity: If one of your parents had severe acne, it is likely that your acne will be more difficult to control.
Pressure: In some patients, pressure from helmets, chin straps, collars, suspenders, and the like can aggravate acne.
Drugs: Some medications may cause or worsen acne, such as those containing iodides, bromides, or oral or injected steroids (either the medically prescribed prednisone or the steroids that bodybuilders or athletes sometimes take). Other drugs that can cause or aggravate acne are anticonvulsant medications and lithium. Most cases of acne, however, are not drug related.
Cosmetics: Some cosmetics and skin care products are pore clogging. Of the many available brands of skin care products, it is important to read the list of ingredients and choose those which have water listed first or second, if one is concerned about acne. These water-based products are usually best for those with acne.
Whether or not you have acne, it’s important to wash your face twice daily to remove impurities, dead skin cells, and extra oil from your skin’s surface. Washing more often than twice daily is not necessarily better; it may do more harm than good. Use warm, not hot, water and a mild facial cleanser. Using a harsh soap (like deodorant body soap) can hurt already inflamed skin and cause more irritation.
Avoid scrubbing your skin harshly with a washcloth, an exfoliating glove, or loofah (a coarse-textured sponge). Gently wash it with a very soft cloth or your hands. Always rinse well, and then dry your face with a clean towel. (Toss the towel in the laundry hamper, as dirty towels spread bacteria.) Also, use the washcloth only once.
Many acne products contain ingredients that dry the skin, so always use a moisturiser that minimizes dryness and skin peeling. Look for ‘non-comedogenic’ on the label, which means it should not cause acne. There are moisturisers made for oily, dry, or combination skin.
These acne products don’t need a prescription. Most of them have ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid, which curb bacteria and dry your skin. They may cause drying or peeling so start with a small amount at first. Then you can adjust how much you use and how often. Another option is a new OTC topical retinoid gel (Differin 0.1% gel). It works to actually keep the acne from forming. Use these products with caution if you have sensitive skin.
During a breakout, avoid wearing foundation, powder, or blush. If you do wear makeup, wash it off at the end of the day. If possible, choose oil-free cosmetics without added dyes and chemicals. Choose makeup that is labelled as non-comedogenic. Read the ingredients list on the product label before buying.
Avoid using fragrances, oils, pomades, or gels on your hair. If they get on your face, they can block your skin’s pores and irritate your skin. Use a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Oily hair can add to the oil on your face, so wash your hair often, especially if you’re breaking out. Got long hair? Keep it pulled away from your face.