Understanding Acne – Causes, Types and the Myths
I’m an adult, why do I still have acne? A question asked by many. Acne is considered to persist in adolescent age. Yet, acne can affect people of all age groups. Acne is a very common skin condition and affects millions worldwide. So, if you’re thinking you have acne, you’re not alone!
By now, you already know how embarrassing, frustrating, and painful acne can be. It takes a huge toll on your self-esteem, physical appearance, and overall well-being. It is important to understand what causes acne.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is a skin condition that affects oil glands and hair follicles of the skin. So, what exactly causes acne? Let’s find out.
1. Hormonal Changes – Hormonal fluctuations can cause acne. These include adolescence, menstrual cycles and imbalances. Androgens, a type of a hormone increases oil production in the skin. This leads to breakouts and clogged pores.
2. Excessive Oil Production – Sebaceous glands produce sebum, which is an oily substance. When the glands become overactive, they produce excess oil which clogs the pores. This leads to acne formation.
3. Diet and Lifestyle – The effect of diet on acne is quite debatable and still being studied. Lack of exercise and poor skincare routine may worsen the acne symptoms. High-stress levels can cause an imbalance in hormones and lead to acne.
4. Bacteria – Propionibacterium is a type of bacteria that resides on the skin. These bacteria can cause inflammation of hair follicles by multiplying in clogged pores. This can aggravate acne.
What are the types of Acne?
Let’s learn about different types of acne. Each has a different appearance and characteristic.
A. Based on Age Groups:
Traditionally, acne has been viewed to primarily affect adolescents. Now, it is being recognized as a skin disorder that also impacts a growing number of adults. According to the current research, three distinct groups are needed to be considered. Namely – preadolescents, adolescents, and post-adolescents.
B. Based on Severity – Grades of Acne:
Acne manifests in various forms, each with its own distinct characteristics. Here are some common types of acne:
Acne starts with a Comedone formation. Comedones originate from a buildup of sebum, or skin oil, and dead skin cells. They form a blockage within the follicle, obstructing its opening. As the sebaceous glands continue producing oil, it fills the pores. The gland exerts pressure on the skin’s surface. It results in a noticeable bump that can be felt and observed.
Comedones are of two major types: Whiteheads and Blackheads. These are non-inflammatory acne lesions.
i. Whiteheads (closed comedones) – They occur when pores are clogged with sebum and dead skin cells
ii. Blackheads (open comedones) are formed when these clogged pores are exposed to air, causing oxidation.
Inflammatory acne occurs when there is bacterial infestation & inflammation in the blocked pores.
There are 4 types in it:
o Papules – They are small red bumps that are developed when the hair follicles are inflamed.
o Pustules – They are similar to papules. Pustules have a white or yellowish center, which is filled with pus.
o Nodules – They develop under the skin and are large, solid, and painful lumps.
o Cysts – They are the most severe form of acne. Cysts are painful, filled with pus, and can cause scarring.
Inflammatory acne results in severe scarring.
There are many myths surrounding acne. It gets quite difficult to differentiate them from the facts. Let’s look at some of the myths about acne.
1. Exposure to sun clears acne – Exposure to the sun dries out the skin. This might give an effect that the acne is cleared. However, prolonged exposure to the sun actually worsens the condition. Protection from the sun is quite essential.
2. Acne clears by itself if left alone – Acne might get better with time. But acne when left alone might cause hyperpigmentation and scarring. It’s better to get it treated!
3. Only teenagers get acne – Acne has been linked with puberty. Hence, it is believed that only teenagers get acne. On the contrary, acne is pretty common in all age groups. What a reality check!
4. Acne is caused only by poor skin hygiene – Poor skin hygiene might be a cause for acne. But, it’s not the only cause. Aggressive scrubbing and over cleansing might actually irritate the skin and worsen the acne.
5. Makeup causes acne – Breakouts can be caused by heavy makeup. There are non-comedogenic and oil free cosmetic options which are safe. These do not clog the pores.
Understanding acne is crucial for acne care and treatment. It is important to debunk the myths to manage acne effectively. Consulting a dermatologist is essential as every individual needs a personalized treatment. Consistency in skincare routines, healthy diet, and a proper treatment go a long way in achieving a healthy skin.