Acne also called acne vulgaris is a skin condition in which small papules or skin lesions commonly occur on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and upper back.
The reason you find them in these areas is that the skin in these places is densely occupied by sebaceous glands. Incidentally, sebaceous glands are present in the skin all over the body except in the palms and the soles. But, they are seen more in the areas mentioned above.
These glands secrete an oily substance called sebum onto the skin through the hair follicles. The function of the sebum is to moisturize and lubricate the skin.
Some people are more likely to develop acne because their skin is more prone to developing these skin eruptions.
What is acne made of?
Acne is caused due to the blocking of the hair follicles by excessive secretion of sebum. This is secreted by the oil glands called the sebaceous glands. These glands are situated at the base of the hair follicles. The hair follicles open onto the skin through the skin pore.
This excessive oily secretion causes the blocking and swelling of the hair follicle opening on the skin. Dead skin cells that are normally drained out through the pores of the skin get trapped inside.
Superadded bacterial infection sets in. This leads to reddish papules over the opening on the skin called pimples. An outbreak of pimples is called acne vulgaris.
Acne, therefore, is made of dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria trapped inside the hair follicle, which has been blocked by excessive secretion of sebum.
How Common is Acne?
Acne vulgaris is the most common skin condition in the United States with a prevalence of 75 to 85 percent. It affects 90% of teenagers and about 50 to 60 percent of adult women. It is estimated that 17 million Americans are affected by this skin condition at any given time.
It can affect people of all races and can occur at any age though it is more common in adolescents and teenagers. Acne in men persists for a longer time than in women because of higher quantities of testosterone in men, especially young men.
You may have mild eruptions or severe ones. Both do mar the look of your face and can give you a complex, especially if you are a girl.
What is acne-prone skin?
All of us have sebaceous glands, which empty sebum out onto the skin. Some of us have acne-prone skin, which simply means oily skin caused by excessive secretion of sebum. This excessive secretion of sebum could be due to various causes such as a genetic trait or a hormonal cause.
Effective treatments and home remedies for this condition are available and the sooner you start the treatment, the faster and better is the prognosis. If left untreated, you can develop acne scars that are difficult to get rid of.
Following simple tips will help you get rid of acne pretty fast. If you are prone to them by virtue of oily skin or some other factors, certain steps on prevention can help.
Types of Acne
Acne can present in various forms:
Mild acne: Blackheads and whiteheads
Mild acne refers to the whiteheads and the blackheads, which almost all of us develop at various times. In medical terms, they are referred to as comedones. Usually, they are found more on the face and shoulders. They are non-inflammatory in nature and of the mildest form.
Blackheads are referred to as open comedones because the hair follicles have a wider opening and the air enters inside the hair follicle to oxidize the melanin in the sebum and the dead skin cells blocked in the hair follicles. This oxidation gives it the black color and hence the name.
Whiteheads are referred to as closed comedones because the skin pore opening is very small and the air cannot enter inside the hair follicle. There is no oxidation of the melanin and, therefore, it stays white in color.
Moderate acne: Papules and pustules
A moderate type of acne is a red inflamed pimple called a papule. These red pimples with white centers are called pustules.
Papules occur when the skin walls around the pores break down due to severe inflammation. The pores get clogged and become hard in consistency and are tender to touch. Due to inflammation, the skin around the pores becomes pink.
Pustules develop when the papules get infected and are filled with pus. The pus is formed by dead skin cells and bacteria. They are red in color, tender to touch, and have a yellowish top.
Severe acne: Nodules and cysts
Severe acne is a painful nodule and cyst, which develops under the skin and is filled with pus. There is damage to the tissues and the cells deep beneath the skin surface. They are deep and hence require treatment from a dermatologist.
Prompt treatment is necessary because nodules can result in skin complications such as dark spots and scarring.
Cysts develop when the clogging of the pores by the sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria occurs deep within the skin below the nodules. They are the largest form of acne, are severely infected, painful, and usually result in scarring. Surgical removal of the cyst becomes necessary.
Treatment depends on the type of acne. Various treatment options, which include oral medication, topical creams, and surgical intervention where necessary are applied.