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What is Acne?

Acne is a common skin disorder that is caused by hormone action on the sebaceous glands (oil-secreting glands) of the skin. Hormones act on the skin's oil glands and hair follicles leading to clogged pores and lesions which we commonly call pimples. These usually form on your face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Even though acne does not lead to a serious health problem, it can lead to emotional disturbances such as low self-esteem. When it is severe, it can even leave behind permanent scars.

The sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum that is normally carried out to the skin surface through the tiny opening of the hair follicle, called a pore. The hair, sebum, and dead skin cells in the follicle may form a plug that prevents sebum from reaching the skin surface. The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) found normally on your skin start to grow in these follicles and cause inflammation. When this plug breaks down, it causes pimples.

Types of Pimples

There are many types of pimples. The most common types include:

  • Whiteheads: These pimples from under the surface of the skin and appear as a small white bump on the skin.
  • Blackheads: These pimples form on the skin surface and are black in colour.
  • Papules: These are small pink bumps that can be painful when you touch them.
  • Pustules: These pimples appear red at their base and are filled with pus.
  • Nodules: These are large, painful, solid pimples.
  • Cysts: These are deep, painful, pus-filled pimples and can cause scars.

Causes of  Acne

Acne is common in teenagers because of excessive hormone production of androgens during puberty. These hormones make the oil glands produce more sebum and also clog the pores of your skin. It can also occur as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy or when birth control pills are started or stopped. In addition, heredity may also play a role, where it runs in families. The use of certain drugs containing lithium and oily creams can also contribute to acne. In women, acne frequently worsens at the time of menstruation.

Treatment for Acne

Acne is often treated by medicines that may be applied to the skin or taken orally. There are several over-the-counter medicines used, the most common ones are Benzoyl peroxide, Resorcinol, Salicylic acid, and Sulfur. These medicines are available in many forms like gels, lotions, creams or soaps. Prescription medicines such as antibiotics or Accutane (vitamin A derivative) are recommended if the problem persists.

Skin Care Tips for Preventing Acne

Practising some skincare tips may prevent acne from developing or becoming worse.

  • Cleanse your skin gently with a mild cleanser twice a day. Avoid using strong soaps or rough scrubs as over-stimulation can make the problem worse.
  • After cleansing, an astringent solution can be used to wipe off excess oil. Do not try to squeeze the lesions as this can lead to permanent scarring.
  • Use cosmetics sparingly, and make sure to use products labelled 'oil-free' and non-comedogenic which means it won't block your pores and aggravate the condition.
  • Protect your skin from tanning by wearing sunscreen daily.