Everything you need to know about spots, pimples & zits.
Almost every one of us at some point in our lives – whether as teens or adults – has felt the same dread when these blemishes rear their ugly (sometimes black or white) heads. But what is acne? How do we differentiate the various types? And why does it affect some and not others?
In a nutshell, Acne vulgaris (the medical term for common acne), is what happens when hair follicles get blocked. Around the root of each hair, beneath the surface of the skin, are the oil-producing sebaceous glands. These glands can overproduce oil and seal the follicle at or beneath its pore, causing a buildup of bacteria and inflammation. Breakouts can vary in severity, and being able to identify each type will help in treating acne appropriately.
Mild acne is less serious than other types as there is no redness or inflammation and is not painful to touch. Open comedones, or blackheads, arise when oxygen reacts with dead skin cells and oil, causing them to turn black in a process called oxidation. Closed comedones, milia, or whiteheads occur when the cellular debris and oil in the hair follicle cover the entire entrance of the follicle so oxygen can’t get in, resulting in white or skin-colored bumps.
Comedones can progress if the follicle ruptures and bacteria infect surrounding tissue, resulting in moderate acne, which is inflamed, red and painful. There are two main types: papules and pustules, which are what many call pimples and zits. Papules are raised, red bumps on the skin that do not contain any pus or fluid, and pustules are papules that have become infected and contain pus.
The most serious forms of acne are known as nodules and cystic acne. Nodules are hard, large, painful lumps which are often very red. A nodule occurs when the wall of a hair follicle is torn, allowing oil and cell debris to get into the lower layer of the skin. Cystic acne originally starts out looking and feeling a lot like nodules, but once the acne is healed over, the sometimes painful cyst may remain for an entire lifetime under the skin.
Any type of acne can be frustrating, but there are effective treatments out there. ESPADA blue light acne treatment is clinically proven to treat existing acne blemishes as well as reducing the frequency and severity of breakouts over time.
Why some people go through life relatively unmarked by acne while others battle severe breakouts is still a bit of a mystery. What we do know is that acne seems to run in the family, and hormonal changes in the body can cause or aggravate the problem, particularly in teenagers, women about two to seven days before menstruation, and pregnant women.
Many people experience the worst breakouts in their teenage years. Oil-producing glands are regulated by hormones, and during puberty they fluctuate wildly. Androgen, mostly known as the “male” hormone and also includes testosterone, revs up oil production leading to a greater chance of acne. Male teenagers in particular tend to break out more as they have more active sebaceous glands, producing more oil.
But for females that escape bad breakouts in their teens, acne can come back to haunt them well into their adult years – even into their 40s. Women especially seem to develop breakouts on the chin and jaw line, often around the time of their menstrual cycle. But an imbalance in both female (estrogen) male hormones can also cause breakouts.
By educating ourselves firstly on what exactly acne is, and who’s most susceptible to its attacks, we can take the first steps toward preventing acne.
Disclaimer: The information on this website and any related links are for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, contact a professional healthcare provider.
Kris Rossi spends an inordinate amount of time mediating arguments between her cats, Missy and Captain, but finds time to write about beauty trends as well.