Acne! Aarrghh! You have probably heard this word more often than you would have liked. Am I right? I know I have. You may also have misused it several times. You see, most of us have mistaken this word to mean a pimple. We use the words: zit, pimple, and acne interchangeably. Meanwhile, they mean different things. While a pimple is just a symptom, acne is the skin condition of having recurring pimples.
When you look at your face in the mirror, you see little holes in your skin. They are called pores. These pores are where your sweat and your natural skin oil (sebum) originate. These help keep the skin oiled, keeping it healthy and flawless. Each pore is attached to your hair follicles.
Unfortunately, these pores can get obstructed when things like dirt, excess oil, dead skin cells, or even microscopic things like bacteria get trapped in these tiny holes. When this happens, a pimple appears on the surface of your skin due to this obstruction. Think of it as blocking a drain that continually has to flow. With time, the build-up of the things trapped will lead to a strain and, eventually, a gigantic eruption. And when everything ‘pops,’ you know it’s going to be messy.
Imagine the above scenario as what acne does to your skin. Having several recurrences of pimples on your skin can lead to acne. This acne causes swelling on your skin from the build-up of things trapped inside the blocked pore. It can also cause oily skin and spots on your skin (shudders).
What Can Cause Your Acne
Like everything, nothing happens out of the blue. Except, of course, evolution, ha! (but that is a topic for another day). The same goes for acne. Certain things can cause you to have acne. While you can control some, others are way beyond your control – and you have to deal with them as they come.
These are the major causes of acne:
1. Family Trait Can Cause Acne:
This is one of the uncontrollable factors I mentioned. If either or both of your parents had acne while growing up, chances are you will have them too. You cannot help this. It is bound to happen to you at some point in your life. But do not fret. Whichever way your acne starts, it can still be managed and treated successfully. So this does not affect your chances of having it treated.
2. Puberty Can Cause Acne
Hello, from your hormonal levels. Puberty is the most frequent cause of acne. It occurs as a result of the changes in the balance of your hormones when puberty hits. Still, know that acne can start at any age too!
During puberty, some hormones affect the amount of natural skin oil (sebum) that is being produced by the oil glands. This unusual activity triggers a, usually benign, skin bacteria (Propionibacterium acne), causing it to act hostile. The now malignant bacteria make your skin swell up, painful to touch, and pus infested. These hormones are also responsible for affecting your hair follicle, causing obstruction in your pores.
3. Menstrual Cycle Or Pregnancy
Many women have used the excuse that their menstrual cycle is the reason for the breakouts on their skin – and they are not wrong! During this period, the change in their hormones can replicate what happens during puberty.
So they find themselves having acne breakouts. The same goes for pregnant women who get this skin condition during pregnancy. There are a lot of hormonal changes during this period, which is why many women experience acne breakouts.
Although there is no evidence backing this up, most women will agree that a lack of proper cleansing after wearing makeup can block your pores and cause acne. The frequency of this happening is so high that someone should be looking into studying this as it is statistically one reason for clogged pores.
In summary, here are some facts you need to know about Acne:¹
- It is a skin disease that has to deal with the oil glands of your hair follicles.
- Three out of four people between the ages of 11 and 30 suffer from this skin condition.
- Although not harmful, it can cause permanent scars on your skin.
- The treatment is relative to the degree of seriousness and the tenacity of the acne.
- Some triggers include the following: Genes, weather and climate condition, makeup containing oils, picking at the pimples, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, stress levels.
What are the Symptoms?
First, you should know that because pores are all over your body, the acne could be anywhere too! Well – almost Anywhere, ahem! The usual places, though, are the shoulders, your neck and chest areas, the back, and of course, your face!
Face acne is the most dreaded. Maybe because the face is one of our physical beauty reflections; however, people detest acne on the face more than all other areas it occurs. It is totally understandable that you would want to worry over acne appearing on your face. Acne is known to leave scars in extreme cases. This is why you should know the Dos and Don’ts of Acne to help you manage and treat them better.
As I was saying, acne has several symptoms. Each according to the type of pores in which the condition occurs. Yes, pores have types. Six types to be precise!
These six various types of pores that Acne causes are:
Blackheads: This type of acne forms when the pores get obstructed with debris, dirt, bacteria, etc., but the top of your skin stays open. Because the surface opens out to air, oxygen reacts with the hair follicles’ lining to make it look dark.
Whiteheads: This type of Acne forms when a pore gets obstructed by debris, dirt, bacteria, etc., closed at the top of your skin, and swollen up. Because of this, it gets a whitish look. It appears like a back head, but it feels stiffer to the touch and doesn’t let out any substance when pinched.
Papules: This type of acne looks red, small, and bulges out of the skin. This bulge appears as a result of infected or swollen follicles of the hair. This type of acne is painful to the touch.
Pustules: This type of acne looks just like Papules – they are red and small. But in their case, there is a white tip at the middle. This tip forms as a result of pus accumulation.
Nodules: Unlike papules and Pustules, nodules happen as a result of huge pores but are also sore. Very sore. These lumps under your skin are infected and are very firm to the touch.
Cysts: These are the real deal-breakers. They are the types of acne spots that can give you permanent scars. These lumps look like boils and are so painful because they get filled up with pus. These Cysts can also be as a result of a Staph Infection.
Now that you know the different types of acne spots, you can better identify the one plaguing you. But I’m sure you must already be familiar with them all. Especially the blackheads and whiteheads. These pores are called Comedones.
You must be wondering why a pimple is not on this list. Does this mean it is not a type of acne spots? No, no, no. A Pimple is, in fact, on this list. Only further broken down into the two different types – Papules and Pustules. Yes, these two are forms of a pimple.
Now that you know all about its types and causes. Let us discuss the Dos and Don’ts of Acne. What are those things you’re doing wrong? What should you be doing right? Find out the Dos and Don’ts of Acne and also some treatments.
DOS AND DON’TS OF ACNE
1. Do ensure that your face is always clean. It does not matter if you are suffering from chronic acne or not; try to nurture the habit of washing up your face regularly. Washing your face two times a day is enough to rid your skin of excess grease, dead cells, and other impure substances on it.
Take care not to clean your face more than two times a day. Doing this can be bad for you rather than the good you had in mind. Remember to use warm water together with a gentle cleanser to wash your face.
Also, use a bar of mild soap; else, the swelling could get worse. If you must use a face cloth, ensure that you scrub on your skin mildly. Do not aggressively rub your face with an exfoliating cloth. Only use a light face cloth to wash your face or just your hands. Ensure that you rinse out the soap thoroughly.
Afterward, pat your face dry using a clean face towel. Do not use a dirty towel on your face. If possible, use a face towel once. After which, you rewash it before using it again.
2. Ensure you use a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser when washing your face.
3. Do not excessively wash your face. It might sound like the obvious thing to do when you are suffering from acne, but you may be irritating your skin the more. Why? Because excess face washing removes all the natural oils that help keep your face from drying out. Doing this can leave your face dry and scratchy.
4. Do mind how much you expose your skin to sunlight. Whoever convinced you that standing out in sunlight shrinks all your pimples may have misled you there. Yes, sunlight has Vitamin D, which consists of some antimicrobial attributes that can lessen inflammation. But exposing yourself to the sun can lead to more skin issues.
So, it is better to get Vitamin D through your meals or supplements. If you are out in the sun, make sure to wear protective clothing and sunscreen. There are some treatments for acne that are sensitive to the sun. Find out if your treatment warns you against this.
5. Do stay mindful about the things you eat and drink. Although it is not proven scientifically whether your diet worsens your acne, eating poorly nutritious food does not help.
Avoid foods containing artificial sweeteners and sugary foods. Exclude these from your meals. Instead, take a lot of water, fruits, and vegetables to keep you fresh and hydrated. You also need to reduce the amount of milk you take, as too much milk intake can increase the severity of your acne.
6. Do not hide your acne under makeup. It can be counterproductive for you as it can clog more of the pores of your skin. It can lead to a terrible cycle of more Acne breakouts. If this continues, it may cause you to have permanent scars. Even when you use makeup, ensure that you clean it off gently and thoroughly from your skin.
Also, strive to use mineral makeup. Using this is better than an oil-based one. Remember to clean your makeup tools too. Repeatedly using dirty makeup tools can worsen your condition.
7. Do clean the gadgets you use, like your phone. Your phone is one thing you use almost all the time. So, you should ensure to wash it against building up dirt and germs that can worsen your acne. When you place your phone on your face or touch your phone and touch your face, you can transfer germs to your skin. Try to clean the surface of your phone with gentle cleansers.
8. Do not touch, pinch, or play with the acne on your skin. Doing this can cause your skin to scar – permanently!
9. Do reduce your usage of the exfoliating face and body scrubs. Excessive usage of these scrubs can worsen your already swollen skin. Instead, try to use chemical exfoliants. These do the job without making your condition worse.
10. Do not purchase any cleanser without first confirming if it contains the right ingredients to help with your acne. What you should look for are products that contain lactic/ glycolic acid or salicylic acid. Products containing these two ingredients are even better. They are both hydroxy acids.
11. Do try out some over-the-counter treatments for mild cases. You do not have to get a prescription before purchasing these. They consist of many ingredients that can help dry out and manage your acne. Some new products go as far as preventing acne from happening at all!
12. Do Moisturise. Experimenting with acne treatment can cause your skin to dry out and peel off. Therefore, you should use a Moisturiser to help with the dryness and scaling. Although, you should look out for moisturizers that do not cause acne. And the moisturizer should be suitable for your skin type.
13. Do keep track of the products you use on your hair. Things like oils, hairspray, and gels can clog the holes on your skin if they reach your face. For this reason, it is advisable to use mild hair products such as mild hair shampoo and conditioner. Also, wash your hair frequently so that the oils on them will not get on your face.
14. Do exercise frequently. You may not see the need for this, but exercising helps not just your glutes and biceps but your skin as well. It helps your skin stay firmer. Remember to wash off the sweat after a workout session.
15. Do not stress out yourself. The degree of how serious your acne can get may depend on your stress levels. It is necessary to chill out now and then. Chilling out is not only good for your acne but your general wellbeing as well. Always try to solve the problems that can increase your stress levels. Stay ‘Cool’ always.
16. Do see a dermatologist. Some acne can be very stubborn and difficult to treat. Do not let this stop you from living your best life. Book an appointment with a dermatologist and get better prescriptions that can help you combat this annoying skin condition. Do not hesitate to see a dermatologist if the over-the-counter treatment seems ineffective for you.