What is Acne?
Acne is caused when hair follicles become blocked. Hair follicles are tiny holes in the skin from which an individual hair grows out of. Attached to these hair follicles are sebaceous glands which can be found near the surface of your skin. Sebaceous glands prevent your hair and skin from drying out by producing an oily substance called sebum. However, these glands can sometimes produce too much sebum which then mixes with dead skin cells which consequently blocks your follicles and thus causes acne.
Different Types of Acne
The plugged follicle can react in different ways, which is why your spots can appear different. There are six main types of spots caused by acne:
blackheads – appear if the plugged follicle is open to the skin, creating a small black or yellowish bumps that develops on the skin; they are not filled with dirt but are black because the inner lining of the hair follicle produces pigmentation
whiteheads – are caused if the plugged follicle is close to the surface of the skin, which then bulges outwards. They have a similar appearance to blackheads, but they can be firmer and will not empty when squeezed. Furthermore, normally harmless bacteria that lives on the skin can then contaminate and infect these plugged follicles forming:
papules – which are small red bumps that may feel tender or sore
pustules – which are similar to papules, but have a white tip in the centre that is caused by a build-up of pus
nodules – are large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin and can be painful
cysts- are the most severe type of spot caused by acne; they are large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils and carry the greatest risk of causing permanent scarring
Proven Triggers of Acne
Testosterone – Teenage acne is thought to be triggered by increased levels of a hormone called testosterone, which occurs during puberty. The sebaceous glands are particularly sensitive to hormones. It is thought that increased levels of testosterone cause the glands to produce much more sebum than the skin needs.
Hereditary – Acne can run in families. If your parents had acne, it’s likely that you will also develop it. One study has found that if both your parents had acne, you are more likely to get more severe acne at an early age. It also found that if one or both of your parents had adult acne, you are more likely to get adult acne too.
Periods & Pregnancy – More than 80% of cases of adult acne occur in women. It is thought thatmany cases are caused by the changes in hormone levels that many women have at certain times from their periods or during pregnancy.
Medication – certain medications, such as steroid medications, lithium (which is often used to treat depression and bipolar disorder) and some anti-epileptic drugs (used to treat epilepsy) can cause a flare-up of acne.
Smoking – if often a cause for acne found in older people.
Accessories – regularly wearing items such as a headband or backpack, which places pressure on a targeted area can sometimes be the cause of an acne flare-up.