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Acne is a term thats used to describe whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. (You may well recognize slang terms like spots, or zits). Most teenagers get the type of acne called acne vulgaris, which can show up on the face, neck, shoulders, back, and chest. Skin pores contain oil glands which naturally lubricate your skin and hair. But sometimes if a pore gets clogged beneath the skin with excess oil and bacteria, the dreaded acne is caused...
Whiteheads happen when a pore gets clogged, closes, and then bulges out. If a pore gets clogged but stays open, the top may darken and you've got a blackhead. A pimple happens when dead skin and bacteria work their way under live skin. This leads to a small infection that makes your skin look red.
Last Updated - 16th October 2005
What Causes Acne?
Although everyone is different, acne is usually caused by the build up of oil and dead skin in a pore. This build up of oil and dead skin is caused because of -
- Natural hormones. These are particularly active in your teens.
- Plugged skin. Lots of skin cells can close the oil glands or pores, creating blackheads or whiteheads.
- Bacteria. Bacteria can easily infect oil glands and pores and grow very quickly.
- Family background. If you have acne, your kids are more likely to have it too.
How To Reduce An Acne Problem
- You shouldnt squeeze, pick, scratch, or rub your skin as it makes the problem worse, and it might even cause scarring.
- Regularly shampoo your hair, and try to keep it off your face if possible - especially at night.
- Keep a food diary to work out if you are one of the few people whose acne gets worse if they eat certain things.
- Exercise regularly to get the old blood flowing, and make sure you get a wash as soon after as possible.
- Avoid unnecessarily touching your face.
- If possible, try to minimize your stress levels.
- Avoid getting sunburned.
- Change your wash cloth every day, as bacteria can grow on damp cloth.
- Wash your face twice a day with a gentle soap like Dove or Lever 2000.
- Always rinse really well with lots of water.
- Only wear makeup on special occasions, and then make sure you remove it completely.
- Granular facial scrub can make acne worse by aggravating the skin.Medication For Extreme Cases
Oral antibiotics - Oral antibiotics have a high success rate, and can be safely used for up to a year. It can take up to six months to fully take effect, but there should be a noticeable difference within six weeks. Oral Antibiotics include erythromycin, minocycline and tetracycline
- Antibacterial cream - Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria which causes inflammation. It is available over the counter in 2.5%, 5% and 10% creams and lotions. It is available in gels in the same percentages but only by prescription. Clinically, theres not much difference between the effectiveness of the various strengths and types used. Unfortunately, there can be some side effects of the use of Benzyol peroxide, including hypersensitivity, irritation, and contact dermatitis (although these are very rare). Remember to always keep Benzoyl peroxide away from clothing as it has a bleaching effect.
Tips for Preventing Acne at Any Age
From 16 to 40 and beyond, acne is a condition that affects almost everyone at some time in their lives. Nearly 85 percent of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 24 develop the condition, and some people continue to be affected into their forties and fifties.
- Dont pick, pop or squeeze, or otherwise mess with your skin. Squeezing blemishes or whiteheads can lead to infection or scarring. It almost always makes the acne you have worse.
- Wash your pillowcase often and always use clean face towels. Dirty towels and pillowcases can harbor bacteria and germs that can make acne worse.
- Be sure to pull your hair away from your skin when you sleep.
- Try to shower as soon as possible after your workout since sweat combined with skin oils can trap dirt and bacteria in your pores.
- Dont go to bed with makeup on. It can clog your pores and lead to breakouts.
- Make sure to clean cosmetic brushes regularly in soapy water and throw out old, contaminated makeup.
- Use topical treatments anywhere that you tend to get breakouts -- don't just spot-treat existing pimples. The pore-clogging process happens two to three weeks before any blemish becomes visible on the skin.
- Exercising regularly can help reduce stress and it increases blood circulation and oxygen penetration to the skin, which may help to prevent acne.
- Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day to help "detoxify" the body from the inside out.
Control Acne and Related Problems with an alteration in diet or lifestyle or treatment methods.
- Stress : Stress has a strong relationship to acne and a profound impact. When under stress the body produces hormonal steroids, such as cortisol (a corticosteroid hormone frequently called hydrocortisone). Like other hormonal steroids (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, etc.) these chemicals target the skin in a disruptive manner and acne flare-ups may coincide with increased stress.
- Begin recognizing your stress levels and potentially stressful events or situations. During these times, cleanse very thoroughly, or cleanse three times a day rather than two. Increase the use of some products from once daily, for example, to twice. In short, step up your daily skin care regimen to offset the skin's response to stress. When the stressful situation passes, return to your normal daily skin care regimen.
- Coffee : Research suggests that coffee (with or without caffeine) stimulates the production of cortisol and acts just like stress. Coffee may be a promoter of acne and its consumption should be limited.
- Diet : A good diet is an effective tool in controlling acne, especially fruits and vegetable rich in antioxidants, combined with adequate protein. A healthy and well-balanced diet affects the health and efficiency of your body and that includes your skin. Every organ in your body relies upon the same vitamins, minerals and nutrients to function. Since the skin is at the end of the food line, it suffers greatly from an improperly balanced diet.
- Antibiotic Dangers : Taking an antibiotic may be an easy method of controlling acne, when it is successful, but there can be a huge downside. Science has known for years that frequent or extended use of antibiotics can damage the body's natural immune functions. Research published in February 2004 by the University of Washington in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute was more specific. Of the 10,000 females studied, it was found that those who had used antibiotics approximately 500 days or more over an 18 year period were twice as likely to contract breast cancer than females at large. The association between antibiotics and cancer was dose related, revealing the higher the total dosage (or volume over time) the greater the risk. While this study involved females, the antibiotic and cancer linkage would seem to be equally as applicable to males as well.
- Benzoyl Peroxide Cautions : Benzoyl peroxide (BP) generates free radicals in the skin. Its effect is similar to unprotected sun exposure. The redness of the skin (erythema), caused by sun exposure and BP, is the result of free radicals (oxidative stress) upon the skin. Repeated sun exposure or BP use generates free radicals that damage the skin's structure and cellular DNA, resulting in premature aging of the skin. The extent of the damage and aging from BP is determined by the concentration of BP, the frequency of application and the duration of its use.
- Smoking : A German study published in 2001 showed acne is 62% more prevalent in active smokers than in non-smokers. Additionally, a significant dose-dependent relationship was observed between acne severity and daily cigarette consumption.
- Hormone Supplementation : The development of adult onset acne following the initiation of hormone supplementation or significant modification of an existing program may be caused by the dosage. Speak with your physician about this subject and modifying the dosage so it does not promote acne.
- Sebum Production Cycle : The skin produces its greatest volume of sebum and oil at approximately 1 to 2 o'clock in the afternoon and its least volume in the middle of the night. Therefore a thorough skin care regimen performed in the late afternoon or early evening is pivotal to effective acne control. Cleanse thoroughly.
- Heredity : Acne appears to have genetic linkage and you may get a better understanding of the possible extent of your condition by discussing this subject with your parents. Ask questions about the severity of their acne and the duration (from what age to what age). Use this information to make decisions regarding the various forms of treatment available to you.
- Menses : Like stress, there is a relationship to acne. The body increases its production of hormones, which indirectly stimulates the production of sebum and the subsequent chemical reactions that promote acne. Two to three days before the cycle, step up the daily skin care regimen and return to the normal regimen at the end of the period.
- Oral Contraceptives : In some instances oral contraceptives may reduce the severity of acne and in other cases they can trigger skin problems, including acne. If you believe an oral contraceptive is contributing to your acne, speak with your physician about "low-profestin" contraceptives or other options. Changing to low-profestin contraceptives has shown to reduce acne in some cases. An oral contraceptive containing ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel may provide benefits for moderate acne.
- Start or Switch Acne Products Conservatively : Approximately 15% of the people beginning the use of acne products or changing products develop an initial flare-up that lasts for several days. When beginning acne products for the first time, begin slowly with only the cleanser initially. In a few days add another product and so on to gradually allow the skin to respond. When changing products, switch to one item at a time in a similar manner.
- Linens and Headgear : Washcloths, towels, pillowcases, hats, sweatbands, etc. collect bacteria and return it to the skin each time the item is used. Change washcloth, towels and pillowcases every two to three days. Make sure headgear is clean and/or avoid the use of unnecessary items.
- Hairline or Forehead Acne : A pattern of acne that basically follows the hairline may be caused by sebum and free fatty acids that are generated in the scalp and migrate onto the forehead. The condition can be reduced or eliminated by shampooing more frequently and/or selecting a shampoo specifically developed for oily hair. While your hair may not be oily, this type of shampoo can reduce the sebum and fatty acids in the scalp.
- Sun Exposure : Rumors about unprotected sun exposure being beneficial in reducing skin oiliness and thereby reducing acne are ill-founded. Photons of sunlight produce free radicals within the skin, which promote acne and reduce the skin's ability to heal and repair. People with acne should avoid sun exposure and use an effective UVA/UVB sunscreen
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