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Acne and its causes

Acne and its causes

Acne is a disease characterized by pimply skin. It can manifest on any part of the body that has many sebaceous glands. According to severity, acne is classified into several forms and types, which depend on skincare routine, immunity, proper treatment etc. Acne affects general wellbeing: patients develop many psychological issues, for example, low self-esteem, fear, social anxiety etc. Generally speaking, acne is a disease of adolescence. However, it can manifest for people in their 25-40s.

What can cause acne?

One of the main acne causes is increased activity of sebaceous glands. Usually it develops because of some changes in hormonal system (especially when concentration of androgens increases). Any kind of stress, tension, emotional disturbance may negatively influence hormonal balance and initiate development of acne.

What causes pimples? How do they form?

Acne is caused by plugs, which are made of accumulated sebum and dead skin cells sticking together. Such combination clogs skin pores and ends up either as blackheads or whiteheads. It creates perfect conditions for skin bacteria to spread; they multiply quickly and cause inflammation, as well as irritation of skin. This way inflammatory lesion is formed. After the deep rashes heal, red, later blue spots or even little scars occur.

Some people think that greasy, calorific foods may cause acne. However, research showed that food does not have any negative impact on skin condition as far as acne is concerned. Of course, patients should observe if specific foods, medications or vitamins cause acne breakout. Low quality make-up or inappropriate skincare products may induce acne.

Types of acne and their causes

Different types of acne are listed below:

• Teenagers’ acne (acne vulgaris). This type of acne is described as juvenile rashes that usually appear during puberty when increased concentration of androgens stimulates sebaceous glands. This type of acne manifests for 13-year-old girls and a bit older boys. The majority of sebaceous glands are located in a so-called T zone (forehead, nose, and chin), chest and back. After turning 23-25, pimples usually back out - rashes subside and sometimes acne fully clears. Although, for 3-7% of patients acne vulgaris does not disappear even in maturity. Genetic background has some influence on developing acne. For example, if both parents had oily skin or acne, there is a 50% chance their kids will develop the disease.

• Babies’ acne (infantile acne). A short-term disease that manifests in red pimples or spots. Babies usually fall ill within first months of their life. It is considered that mother’s hormones causes this type of acne. Infantile acne is completely harmless and disappears after a couple of weeks. 

• Adults’ (women’s’) acne (acne tarda). The disease of workaholic women. If acne manifests when you are older than 25, you should consult an endocrinologist and a gynecologist to determine the underlying cause. Adults suffer from juvenile pimples because of hormonal imbalance, in particular when concentration of androgens increases. To manage this type of acne, usually antibiotics are prescribed. One more reason that causes acne for women in their thirties is the discontinuance of using birth control pills. Contraceptives that include estrogens stop production of androgens. Although there is lack of scientific evidence, but researchers deem that, some foods may have influence on acne tarda. There is abundance of hormones, various synthetic supplements, pesticides in our everyday food. Diet rich in carbohydrates, especially which includes bread, pasta, sweets, crackers, crisps cause sudden rise of glucose and insulin concentration in blood. Insulin promotes production of androgens and decreases synthesis of proteins, which bind these hormones. Due to this, concentration of free androgens increases in blood and they reach the receptors of sebaceous glands easier. Consequently, production of sebum increases, Propionibacterium acnes reproduces and inflammation develops.

• Adults’ (men) acne. Rash after-shave (Pseudofolliculitis barbae) is one of the most common male problems. Shaving razors, gels or foam may irritate skin and trigger unwanted rashes. Affected skin swells, becomes sensitive. Rashes appear with white tops, they may hurt, and beard hair might bend and grow in. One way to solve this problem is to use appropriate facial cleanser before shaving. So what are probable causes of this acne type?

  • Misbalanced nutrition, irrational consumption of food supplements (especially for sportsmen);
  • Intensive physical activity, excessive sweating, too frequent showers
  • Stress;
  • Certain diseases and medications;

Although the disease is not curable, luckily, it can be controlled. To some extent, acne is related to activity of gonads, which changes as the person gets older. Eventually, acne breakouts become rarer and proper skin care routine is enough to keep situation under control.

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Acne treatment is usually very individualized. Majority of patients try to fight the disease by themselves, which results in using inappropriate skincare products or procedures. Acne is a chronic disease that is hardly susceptible even to a professional medical treatment. Therefore, treatment is long-term. There is no best treatment for acne. Patients need to understand a simple fact - something that works for one, may be completely ineffective for others. For that reason, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist, who is going to determine the underlying cause of your acne and recommend the most suitable treatment option. Sometimes the patient needs to try out some of them.

Acne treatment methods

• Medication:

  • Antibiotics (either topical or oral). Disadvantage of antibacterial treatment is that bacteria become resistant to them. For this reason, antibiotics cannot be applied long-term. 
  • Retinoids. They are prescribed in severe acne forms. These substances decrease secretion of sebaceous glands.
  • Hormonal contraceptives. Usually they are prescribed for late women acne, which manifests in mild or moderate form. Sometimes birth control pills might even aggravate the disease. For this reason, you should always consult a specialist.

Drug therapy usually lasts up to 2-3 months, sometimes even longer. It is very important to take good care of your skin even after discontinuing medications as the pimples might show up again. For a healthy skin maintenance, your doctor might prescribe various creams, lotions or ointments.

• Proper skincare. Carefully clean the affected skin with special skincare products. Avoid touching any lesions with your hands as this caries the risk to worsen your skin condition. Deep facial cleaning, peelings can be performed only by a professional cosmetologist or dermatologist. Before every medical procedure, skin is thoroughly cleaned and appropriately prepared. Skin cleansing and peeling make the epidermis thinner and decrease sebum secretion. You should follow these recommendations for a better skincare routine:

  • Avoid using soap frequently.  Although it minimizes sebum production, but it also makes skin more sensitive, as well as impairs skin acid-alkali balance.
  • Apply alcoholic, acid solutions, ethereal oils as seldom as possible. These substances impair skin acid-alkali balance and increases sebum production.
  • Do not squeeze or scratch the pimples; do not touch them with dirty hands as deep scars may occur. Removal of scars is difficult and expensive. Sometimes even laser procedures cannot effectively remove acne scars.

• Intensive Pulse Light (IPL) treatment. The purpose of this method is to destroy acne-causing bacteria and change the immune response to them. Acne causing bacteria produce and collect porphyrins, which absorb the laser energy. This method reduces sebaceous glands in size, and, as a consequence, sebum secretion decreases. Several intermittent procedures are needed in order to achieve satisfying results. 

• Professional cosmetic treatment. Usually acne treatment is combined. For this reason, professional cosmetics that do not clog the pores are often recommended. In every case, patients should consult a dermatologist since certain skincare or make-up products might aggravate the treatment.