Understanding the Basics of Acne
If you’re like most people, when you hear someone talk about acne then you assume they’re just talking about pimples. The truth is, there’s a big difference between some pimples and acne. Acne is an inflammatory skin disease. It directly affects the pilosebaceous, a section of the skin that consists of the sebaceous gland your hair follicles.
In most cases, acne arises during puberty. That’s understandable, since your body is experiences quick-rising levels of testosterone that are associated with the bodily changes puberty brings along. But acne isn’t always a byproduct of puberty. Sometimes your genetics can be the underlying reason why you develop it.
As much as ten percent of Americans will experience acne sometime during their life.
Symptoms and Signs of Acne:
Just because you get a blackhead or a pimple does not mean you have acne. So how can you tell if you have acne or just a passing phase of pimples? Here are some things to look for:
- Microcomedone: This is also sometimes referred to as Comedone. A microcomedone is basically a hair follicle that become enlarged due to getting plugged up with bacteria and oils. They’re very, very small. In fact, you can’t see it with the naked eye.
- Blackhead: An open comedone can become a blackhead. Lots of people think that a blackhead is a pimple that has dirt and other particles trapped in the top due it’s color. However, it’s actually plugged hair follicle and it has risen to your skin surface. That dark color of the blackhead? That’s the bacteria and oils plugging it.
- Whitehead: Whiteheads are closed comedones. Instead of rising to the surface like a blackhead, they stay just under your skin surface.
- Papules: When you get those small pink bumps on the surface of your skin, these are papules. They’re inflamed but aren’t filled, plugged and pus-filled.
- Pimples: When you get the small bumps raised and pus-filled, these are actual pimples. They can have different looks to them, but they almost always have a red base.
- Nodules: These are also called cysts. They’re pus-filled, inflamed and normally very large compared to the others. They are often painful because they’re embedded very deep under the surface of your skin. If picked or opened and drained they’ll often leave a scar.
Acne Lesions and Their Development
Glands under your skin secrete certain oils. Sometimes hair follicles can become plugged or blocked by them. Your pores are often found above a comedone. When dead skin cells, oils and blocked pores are together it often leads to a nice little growth of bacteria. This particular bacteria is technically called Propionibacterium acnes – hence the name of this skin disease: acne. If that bacteria is allowed to remain and it sets off a chain reaction then you end up with inflammation and eventually a lesion that can cause scarring.
What Causes Acne?
Bouts of acne can be contributed to several things. One thing to know is that it is not your diet or grooming habits that cause acne. Not usually anyways. Of course there are exceptions, but normally it’s something else like hormones or too much sebum. Others include:
Stress: There are studies that show that acne can be brought on by stress. When you’re under too much stress, your immune system can suffer. Your hormone levels fluctuate. Combined, this can be an environment prone to acne outbreaks.
Dead skin cells: Everyday, skin cells die and new ones replace them. Sometimes the dead skin cells can get caught and block pores. If that happens then oxygen can’t make its way underneath the blocked area, which again, leaves an environment that bacteria loves.
Bacteria: Bacteria is always present in our bodies. However, if there’s too much then it can cause inflammation, which is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Propionibacterium acnes can form. Normally there’d need to be quite a bit for an acne outbreak. But if you’ve become allergic to this bacteria it will only take a tiny bit to cause an outbreak.