Acne affects the skin of millions of people and can cause long-lasting damage to the skin if not dealt with accordingly.
Photo: via Anna Nekrashevich/Pexels
Acne breakouts are the most common during your teenage years — but their impact can last well into adulthood. Leaving behind scars and blemishes that can persist for years, acne causes embarrassment, a lack of self-confidence, and social dysfunction.
Context: Acne affects up to 50 million Americans annually, with about 85 percent of cases experienced by people aged between 12 and 24.
There’s no best way to cure acne, but the condition is often treatable by a combination of medication and lifestyle interventions. Treatment is often skin- and condition-specific, but some generic medications can also be effective.
Experts consider it a disease of Western civilization — almost non-existent in non-westernized societies like the Eskimos and rural Brazil, living and eating in a “traditional manner.”
Factors that can make your skin prone to acne include:
Other potential triggers include long-term use of electronics, sun exposure, air pollution, or an allergic reaction to certain cosmetics.
Acne can be influenced by genetics and other health conditions, with only a small percentage of teenagers ever having clear skin.
Understandably, acne most commonly develops on areas of the skin that have an abundance of oil glands — like the face, shoulders, chest, and back.
• Whiteheads are closed comedones that form when a pore is clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. Since the top of the pore remains closed, it looks like a small, white bump underneath a thin layer of skin.
• Blackheads are formed when a pore is clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, similar to whiteheads. Unlike whiteheads, however, they are closed comedones — exposed to the air which causes a black appearance.
• Papules are small, tender bumps that are tender to the touch and about 1 cm in diameter. The surrounding skin may be red and irritated.
• Pustules, also called pimples, are pus-filled bumps that typically appear red with a yellow or white head.
• Cysts are pus-filled acne that forms deep under the skin. They are painful and the most likely to cause scarring.
• Nodules are hard knots that develop under the skin — appearing as red bumps. They can be painful to the touch and are at least a centimeter in diameter.
The most common complication of acne is scarring — caused when inflamed acne damages the surrounding skin. Different types of acne include:
Left untreated, acne scars can persist for a lifetime — accompanied by serious psychological symptoms in some people.
While the emotional toll varies with the severity of acne or acne scars, some cases are known to contribute to a mental health disorder.
Experiencing acne in your late 30s can get even more troublesome — an increasingly prevalent problem among adult women with wide-ranging implications.
The skin is part of a dynamic, complex ecosystem — and soap can devastate this landscape. Washing your face with soap doesn’t just strip away your skin’s natural oils, but also many helpful microorganisms.
Treating acne, therefore, requires a delicate approach.
Remember to avoid irritating your skin when treating acne. Some topical treatments can cause irritation and photosensitivity — in which case you should see a dermatologist. ❏