Acne is a chronic disorder of the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Some of the characteristics of acne include black heads, pimples, cysts, infected abscesses, and rarely scarring. Acne usually occurs during adolescence in both men and women. To be more specific, acne starts during puberty and tends to get worse for people with oily skin. Acne badly affects teenage boys. Only mild to moderate forms of acne occur in middle-aged women. Acne can be seen most commonly on the face. The other places where it can occur include the neck, chest, back, shoulders, scalp, and upper arms and legs. Most forms of acne are the result of heredity and hormonal problems and has nothing to do with a harmful diet or poor hygiene.
THE SKIN ANATOMY
To understand the acne process, some knowledge about skin anatomy and physiology is essential:
The skin has there layers: The outer layer called epidermis consists of epithelial cells. Under this lies the dermis consisting of connective tissue. At the bottom there is a layer called the hypodermis consisting mostly of fat cells.
The skin has narrow pores extending from the surface down to the top of the sub-dermis, called hair follicles. A hair extend from a growth zone in the bottom of each hair follicle and out at the skin surface. Around the hair in the dermis, there are small glands called sebaceous glands. These glands produce a fatty substance, sebum, which empty through the follicle opening and lubricates the hair and the skin.
THE ACNE PROCESS
Acne starts by the glands in the hair follicles increasing their sebum production. This will in the beginning only cause greasy skin. Eventually the sebum in the entrance of the follicles mixes with dead epithelial cells. This mix reacts chemically to forms hard props, comedones that close the pore entrances. According to the color of the comedones, they are called black heads or white heads.
Then the closed hair follicle gets filled with sebum and swell. The swollen follicle then gets infected by bacteria. The bacteria and the accumulated sebum cause the follicle and the surrounding skin to get inflamed, forming a pimple. At last the inflamed follicle burst and empties its content. Eventually the affected area heals. Sometimes the inflammation reaches deep into the skin surrounding the follicle and destroys skin tissue. This will cause more or less distinct scars that may reside permanently. Typically an affected person will have follicles in all these stages of the process at any given time.
THE CAUSES OF ACNE
The increased hormone production in the puberty stimulates to increased sebum production. The male hormone, testosterone, seem to contribute most. Also girls begin to produce more testosterone in the puberty. Also in other periods, altered hormone production may give acne, for example by women in the menopause.
Since not all teens get acne in any degree, the increased hormone level cannot be the whole cause of the increased sebum production. The follicles of affected persons must for some reason react stronger upon the higher hormone level.
Dietary factors, like eating too much fat, too much sugar or the wrong kind of fat may aggravate acne by some individuals. Lack of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids may also contribute to development of acne.
Poor digestion, lazy colon and constipation aggravate acne in some individuals, probably due to productions of toxins in the intestines. Lazy colon may be caused by dietary faults, like lack of fiber.
Very frequent washing and use of strong soaps aggravate acne, and does not alleviate the condition as many think. Rubbing, scrubbing or squeezing the skin may also aggravate acne.
Here are some other factors that may contribute in causing acne or aggravating the condition.
- Some contraceptive agents
- Environmental or domestic pollution.
- Humid environments.
- Some antidepressants.
- Testosterone and anabolic steroids used for treatment or by body-building.
- Use of some types of greasy cosmetic products.
- Some antiperspirant products.
- Exposing the skin for chlorine or other halogens, or medicines containing halogens.
- Women may get aggravated acne 2-7 days before menstruation.
WHAT CAN YOU DO YOURSELF TO AVOID OR TO TREAT ACNE
Sometimes Acne is so severe that special medical treatment is required, and sometimes the causes of acne necessitate medical treatment. But you can do much yourself also. Here are listed things you can do yourself to prevent or treat acne:
1. Some advices about diet that may help prevent and cure acne:
- Do not consume a great amount of fat.
- The fat you add to the food should be natural oils. Olive oil is ideal, but use other types of oils too, like walnut oil, sunflower oil and soy oil. However, do not use only soy oil as many tend to do. Using only soy oil will give you too much of some fatty acids and too less of others.
- Eat much fish, seafood and not so much meat.
- Eat food with a high fiber content to regulate the digestion, like vegetables, whole cereals, full corn bread and fruit.
2. Here are some things you should avoid.
- Do not use greasy or heavy cosmetics that clog your skin and are difficult to wash away.
- Do not use strong irritating antiperspirants.
- Do not wash with strong soap or cleaners that dry up your skin and take away all the natural oily protection in your skin.
- If you perform body-building, do not use anabolic steroids or other hormonal supplements.
- Use clothes that allow air to reach your body surface to avoid collection of humidity and overheating of your skin.
3. Use of rinsing milk or solutions
You can rinse your skin with mild products especially made to dissolve the plugs in your pores, and to make the environment in your skin unfriendly to bacteria causing infection. Some of these products are just products to wash your skin with one or more times a day; others should be on during night and flushed away in the morning.
Salicylic acid is a mild ingredient often used in these products to dissolve the comedones. The products usually also contain ingredients that work antibacterial and stimulate the skin’s own cleaning activities, like Tea tree oil or Echinacea extract.
Types of acne
Acne starts in a similar way for all but can take different forms and can react in a unique way according to the body conditions of the individual. A basic lesion called the comedo is the beginning of acne. The comedo is an enlarged hair follicle plugged with oil and bacteria residing under the surface of your skin, that waits for the right conditions to grow into an inflamed lesion. Whenever the skin produces more oil, the bacteria grows within the swollen follicle. The surrounding skin becomes increasingly inflamed as your white blood cells fight against the intruders. Two main types of acne include non-inflammatory acne and inflammatory acne.
If the plugged follicle stays below the surface of the skin, the lesion is called a closed comedo. This usually appears on the skin as small, whitish bumps. This condition is otherwise called as whitehead.
Open comedo :
If the plug enlarges and pushes through the surface of the skin, the lesion is called an open comedo. The dark appearance of the plug is not due to dirt, but due to the buildup of melanin, the pigmentation element of the skin. This condition is otherwise called as blackhead.
This appears on the skin as a small, firm pink bump. The papules are tender in nature and are often considered an intermediary step between non-inflammatory and clearly inflammatory lesions.
These are small round lesions that are inflamed and contain visible pus, which appear red at the base with a yellowish or whitish center. Pustules do not contain a large amount of bacteria. The inflammation is caused by chemical irritation from sebum components such as fatty free acids.
These are large pus-filled lesions that are usually present deep within the skin. The cysts are very painful lesions, as they are inflamed. Cysts form as a result of the contents of a comedo spilling over the surrounding skin and due to the response of the local immune system in producing pus. The cysts often leave deep scars.
This is a rare but serious form of inflammatory acne that develops primarily on the back, buttocks, and chest. In addition, to the presence of pustules and cysts, there may be severe bacterial infection.
The common symptoms of acne include persistent, recurrent red spots or swellings on the skin known as pimples. The pimples become inflamed and get filled with pus. The pimples usually occur on the face, chest, shoulders, neck, or upper portion of the back. Some of the other symptoms include dark spots with open pores at the center, which are known as blackheads, bulged spots under the skin without openings, which are known as whiteheads, and red swellings or lumps filled with pus, which are known as pustules. The pustules can develop from blackheads or whiteheads. Inflamed fluid-filled lumps under the skin known as cysts are also a symptom of acne. These cysts can become as large as an inch across.
There are many recommendations how to treat acne. The best option to treat acne is to use 100% pure botanical ingredients that cleanse pores of dirt and bacteria naturally while feeding your skin cells the nutrients they need.
After cleaning your skin, treating acne using organic tea tree from Australia has been proven to be the best treatment. If you’ve ever experienced the powerful and antiseptic scent of organic tea tree oil, then you probably won’t find it hard to believe that organic tea tree oil contains some serious antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. You can regularly use tea tree oil to prevent any acne flare-ups before they get ugly. Put 2-3 drops of 100% organic tea tree essential oil and dab it on the breakout. Don’t do this if you have extremely sensitive skin. Also keep in mind that tea tree oil can dry out your skin—fast. Diluting the tea tree oil with another oil, like jojoba, before applying is highly recommended.
For a more soothing essential oil for fighting acne, lavender is the oil for you. Organic lavender oil can help calm skin and reduce blemishes at the same time. Incorporate lavender into your everyday beauty regimen to prevent breakouts before they happen. One option is to choose a face wash or moisturizer with lavender essential oil as an ingredient. Or, make your own moisturizer by combining jojoba, almond or grapeseed oil with lavender essential oil.