Acne – Know the causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

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 — the only exception being members of a few primitive Neolithic tribes living in isolation. 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.

What is the main cause of acne?

Acne occurs when the pores of your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Each pore of your skin is the opening to a follicle. The follicle is made up of a hair and a sebaceous (oil) gland. The oil gland releases sebum (oil), which travels up the hair, out of the pore, and onto your skin.

Is acne an infection?

Acne is an infection of the skin, caused by changes in the sebaceous glands. The most common form of acne is called acne vulgaris, which means “common acne”. The redness comes from the inflammation of the skin in response to the infection. Oils from the glands combine with dead skin cells to block hair follicles.

What are the bacteria that causes acne

This inflammation can lead to the symptoms associated with some common skin disorders, such as folliculitis and acne vulgaris. The damage caused by P. acnes and the associated inflammation make the affected tissue more susceptible to colonization by opportunistic bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus.

What is Acne Vulgaris

Acne vulgaris (or simply acne) is a long-term skin disease that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil from the skin. Acne is characterized by areas of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and greasy skin, and may result in scarring.

Symptoms of acne

Acne develops most often on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, or back and can range from mild to severe. It can last for a few months, many years, or come and go your entire life.

Mild acne usually causes only whiteheads and blackheads. At times, these may develop into an infection in the skin pore (pimple).

Severe acne can produce hundreds of pimples that cover large areas of skin. Cystic lesions are pimples that are large and deep. These lesions are often painful and can leave scars on your skin.

Acne can lead to low self-esteem and sometimes depression. These conditions need treatment along with the acne.

Home treatment

Treatment at home can help reduce acne flare-ups.

  • Wash your face (or other affected skin) gently one or two times a day.
  • Do not squeeze pimples, because that often leads to infections, worse acne, and scars.
  • Use a moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out. Choose one that says “noncomedogenic” on the label.
  • Use over-the-counter medicated creams, soaps, lotions, and gels to treat your acne. Always read the label carefully to make sure you are using the product correctly.
  • Examples of some over-the-counter products used to treat acne include:
  • Benzoyl peroxide (such as Brevoxyl or Triaz), which unplugs pores.
  • Alpha hydroxy acid, which dries up blemishes and causes the top skin layer to peel. You’ll find alpha hydroxy acid in some moisturizers, cleansers, eye creams, and sunscreens.
  • Salicylic acid (such as Propa pH or Stridex), which dries up blemishes and causes the top skin layer to peel.
  • Tea tree oil, which kills bacteria. You’ll find tea tree oil in some gels, creams, and oils.

Some skin care products, such as those with alpha hydroxy acid, will make your skin very sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. Protect your skin from the sun and other sources of UV light.

Medications

Treatment of acne depends on whether inflammation or bacteria are present. Some acne consists only of red bumps on the skin with no open sores (comedonal acne). Topical creams and lotions work best for this type of acne. But if bacteria or inflammation is present with open sores, oral antibiotics or isotretinoin may work better.

The most common types of medicines that doctors use to treat acne include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide, such as Brevoxyl or Triaz.
  • Salicylic acid, such as Propa pH or Stridex.
  • Topical and oral antibiotics, such as clindamycin, doxycycline, erythromycin, and tetracycline.
  • Topical retinoid medicines, such as tretinoin (Retin-A), adapalene (Differin), and tazarotene (Tazorac).
  • Azelaic acid, such as Azelex, a topical cream.
  • Isotretinoin, an oral retinoid.
  • Low-dose birth control pills that contain estrogen (such as Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, or Yaz), which work well on moderate acne in women and for premenstrual flare-ups.
  • Androgen blockers, such as spironolactone. Androgen blockers can be useful in treating acne. These medicines decrease the amount of sebum (oil) made in your pores.

Prevention tips

Although you can’t prevent acne, there are steps you can take at home to keep acne from getting worse.

  • Gently wash and care for your skin every day. Avoid scrubbing too hard or washing too often.
  • Avoid heavy sweating if you think it causes your acne to get worse. Wash soon after activities that cause you to sweat.
  • Wash your hair often if your hair is oily. Try to keep your hair off of your face.
  • Avoid hair care products such as gels, mousses, cream rinses, and pomades that contain a lot of oil.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Wear soft, cotton clothing or moleskin under sports equipment. Parts of equipment, such as chin straps, can rub your skin and make your acne worse.
  • Avoid exposure to oils and harsh chemicals, such as petroleum.
  • Protect your skin from too much sun.