What is Acne?

Acne. Even the word itself connotes a repulsive condition. Visions of angry lesions and ripe red bumps come to mind when acne is mentioned. It is even commonly (but falsely) associated with bad hygiene.

Several skin rashes are classified as acne and some of the most common are: acne vulgaris (commonly occurs during puberty), acne cosmetica (triggered by cosmetics) and acne conglobata (chronic abscesses and boils).

Anyone can get acne, regardless of age, background, gender or color. It appears on the face, neck, back, shoulders, chest and arms and the severity varies from one individual to another. Acne causes whiteheads and blackheads, oily skin, red and/or yellow spots. Bumps and red areas appear on the skin and causes scarring. It is never a pretty sight.

How acne develops.

Below the surface of the skin are millions of sebaceous glands that produce sebum, an oily substance. Sebum is actually good and makes the skin supple and smooth. But when dead skin cells block hair follicles and there is an overproduction of sebum, the problem begins. An environment like this encourages the growth of a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes.

P. acnes cause acne.

These bacteria thrive in the oily environment in the blocked follicle and multiply. By themselves, P. acnes are actually harmless but when there is an excessive production of sebum, they feed on it and produce fatty acids that affect the body and cause inflammation that results in pimples and pustules. If the condition is severe, cysts may even develop under the surface of the skin and rupture, resulting to scars.

Blame the hormones.

Testosterone is a hormone that occurs naturally in the bodies of men and women. People who are genetically prone to acne are sensitive to this hormone and it causes sebaceous glands to secrete more oil.

Some contraceptive pills improve the condition of the skin and a doctor might prescribe one for treatment. However, some oral contraceptives may make acne worse. Ask the doctor for alternatives if you are under prescribed medication.

Good hygiene.

Acne is not contagious nor is it caused by dirt and dust. The black or brown coloring that is found at the tip is not dirt, but sebum that changed color when it came into contact with oxygen.

Contrary to popular belief, washing the face often will not help acne. It might even worsen the condition because over stimulation can irritate the skin. Twice a day washing should be enough.

Squeezing and picking the pimples will irritate it and cause more swelling, so it’s best to leave the skin alone.

Makeup did it.

Some cosmetics might cause allergic reaction and trigger an acne attack. It’s best to stick to formulations that are designed for sensitive skin, or those that are non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic because they are gentler and do not use perfumes or two much colorants in their preparations.

Chocolates and acne.

There is no conclusive study that shows acne is caused or aggravated by certain foods, like chocolates, for example. But some people do suffer from breakouts after consuming certain food like milk or sugars. If this is true to your particular case, then refrain from eating whatever it is you believe triggers your acne breakout.


Fighting acne means killing the bacteria that causes it. There are many over-the-counter creams available in the market that does just that. Some of the most popular are benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid and topical retinoids which are Vitamin A-based. These have a peeling effect on the skin, so the bumps are less obvious.

There are also topical and oral antibiotic preparations that your doctor can prescribe which can kill bacteria. These medications control the population of the bacteria at a manageable level.

Acne affects millions of people and more women than men. It is a very common skin condition which has been around for so long that myths have been created around it. Thankfully, modern medicine has ways to control it. It is only a matter of knowing what works and ensuring that treatment is began right away in order to check the condition at its early stage.


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