May 30, 2023
According to the National Institute of Skin Diseases, acne is a common skin condition that happens when hair follicles under the skin become clogged. Sebum – the oil that helps skin from drying out – and dead skin cells plug the pores, leading to lesions outbreaks, commonly called pimples or zits. Acne can vary in severity, ranging from mild, occasional breakouts to more severe forms, such as cystic acne, which involves deep, painful, painful nodules or cysts. It can have physical and emotional effects, including scarring, low self-esteem, and social anxiety. However, effective treatments are available to manage and control acne.
Acne can affect individuals of all ages and genders, but it is most commonly associated with teenagers going through puberty. It is estimated that around 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience some form of acne. However, acne can persist into adulthood and even develop for the first time in adulthood.
It is important to note that acne is not limited to a specific gender or ethnic group. Both males and females can experience acne. Acne can occur on the face, chest, back, shoulders, and other areas where there are oil glands and hair follicles.
Acne is caused by a combination of factors, and the exact cause can vary from person to person.
The sebaceous glands in the skin produce an oily substance called sebum. Excessive production of sebum can contribute to clogged pores and acne development.
When dead skin cells and sebum accumulate, they can block the hair follicles, leading to the formation of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and providing an environment for bacteria to thrive.
The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, which is normally found on the skin, can multiply in clogged hair follicles and trigger inflammation, leading to the development of inflammatory acne lesions.
Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause, can influence oil gland activity and contribute to acne breakouts. Androgens (male hormones) can stimulate the oil glands to produce more sebum.
The immune system responds to bacterial activity in the clogged hair follicles, leading to inflammation. Inflammation can cause redness, swelling, and the formation of pimples or cysts.
Acne can have a genetic component, meaning that if your parents or close relatives had acne, you may be more prone to developing it.
Some medications, such as corticosteroids, androgenic steroids, and certain anticonvulsants, may contribute to acne development as a side effect.
While stress itself doesn’t directly cause acne, it can exacerbate existing acne or contribute to hormonal imbalances that can trigger breakouts.
Certain skincare products or cosmetics that are comedogenic (tend to clog pores) or irritating to the skin can worsen acne in some individuals.
The role of diet in acne is still not fully understood, but some studies suggest that high glycemic index foods, dairy products, and diets rich in processed foods and unhealthy fats may contribute to acne development in some individuals.
Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, appear as small, flesh-colored, or white bumps on the skin’s surface. They occur when a hair follicle becomes clogged with oil and dead skin cells, causing a closed plug. Whiteheads are generally non-inflammatory and can be treated with gentle exfoliation, topical acne medications, and a consistent skincare routine to prevent further clogging of pores.
Blackheads, also known as open comedones, are a type of acne blemish characterized by small, dark, or black bumps on the skin’s surface. They occur when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, forming an open plug. The dark color of blackheads is not due to dirt but is caused by the oxidation of melanin (skin pigment) when exposed to air. It is important to avoid squeezing or picking at blackheads, as it can lead to inflammation and potential scarring.
Papules are a type of acne lesion that appear as small, raised, red or pink bumps on the skin. They typically do not have a visible center or contain pus. Papules occur when the walls of the hair follicles rupture due to inflammation caused by clogged pores. They are mild to moderate forms of acne and can be tender to the touch.
Pustules are a type of acne lesion characterized by raised, inflamed, and pu-filled bumps on the skin. They typically have a red base with a visible white or yellowish center. Pustules form when the hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, leading to an immune response and the accumulation of pus. They can be painful and may be accompanied by inflammation.
Nodules are a severe form of acne that appear as large, solid, and painful bumps beneath the skin’s surface. They are deeper and more severe than papules and pustules. Nodules develop when the hair follicles become severely clogged with oils, dead skin cells, and bacteria, leading to deep inflammation and infection. They are typically firm, deep-rooted lumps that do not come to a head and can cause significant discomfort.
Cysts are a severe and often painful form of acne that manifests as large, fluid-filled lesions beneath the skin’s surface. They are deep, inflammatory nodules that can be filled with pus or a semi-liquid substance. Cysts are typically larger than other types of acne and can cause significant discomfort and scarring. They develop when the hair follicles become severely blocked, leading to a rupture of the follicle wall and a deeper inflammation.
Cystic-nodular acne is a severe and debilitating form of acne that combines the characteristics of cysts and nodules. It is characterized by large, deep, painful lesions that are filled with fluid, pus, or a combination of both. The affected areas may appear swollen and inflamed and often leave deep scars.
Acne conglobata is an uncommon and severe form of acne that is characterized by interconnected nodules and abscesses on the skin. It often affects the chest, back, and buttocks. This condition is marked by extensive inflammation, deep-rooted lesions, and the formation of large, interconnected nodules that can discharge foul-smelling pus.
Acne can have a significant impact on mental health and well-being. The visible nature of acne lesions on the face and other prominent areas can lead to feelings of self-consciousness, embarrassment, and low self-esteem. Acne-related stress and anxiety can affect social interactions, leading to social isolation and withdrawal. Individuals with acne may experience a negative body image and feelings of depression, as they may perceive their appearance as unattractive or flawed.
Acne’s impact on mental health can be particularly pronounced during adolescence, a time when self-image and social acceptance are crucial. It is important to recognize the psychological effects of acne and provide support and understanding to those affected. Seeking professional help from dermatologists and mental health professionals can be beneficial in managing both the physical and emotional aspects of acne.
Making certain lifestyle changes can play a role in managing acne. Here are five lifestyle changes that can help improve acne:
It is advisable to see a dermatologist for acne in the following situations:
Skincare products can be effective in managing acne when used appropriately. Here are some key points to consider when using skincare products to help acne:
Prescription medications are often necessary for managing moderate to severe acne. Prescription medication for acne typically fall into three main categories: topical, oral, and hormonal treatments. Topical medications, such as retinoids, antibiotics, or combination creams, are applied directly to the skin to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and control acne-causing bacteria. Oral medications, like antibiotics or isotretinoin (Accutane), work from within the body to target bacteria, regulate oil production, and reduce inflammation. Hormonal treatments, such as oral contraceptives (birth control pills) or anti-androgen medications, help balance hormones that can contribute to acne in certain individuals. These medications may be used alone or in combination, depending on the severity and underlying causes of acne.
AviClear is the first and only FDA-cleared energy device for the treatment of mild to severe acne. This treatment provides long-term, effective improvements of acne across all skin types. AviClear uses the power of laser light to treat acne at the source by selectively targeting and suppressing the sebaceous oil gland safely and effectively. Clinical trials demonstrate that current and future breakout episodes are shorter, less intense, and more infrequent following the AviClear procedure. Further, acne clearance results continue to improve over time, demonstrating the long-term efficacy of this novel treatment.