Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that can strike anyone at any stage of their lives. Formerly associated with only teenagers, research at The International Dermal Institute indicates that acne in adulthood can be more complicated since adults often have “sensitized skin, or a combination of skin conditions in addition to their acne, which makes treatment more challenging than the treatment of teens, who generally have more resilient, uniform and oily skin.”
The Process of Acne Formation
The skin is the largest body organ and it is covered in pores – tiny openings on the surface of the skin. Every pore is part of a hair follicle.
When the hair follicle becomes plugged with dead skin cells and oil, the bacteria responsible for acne, Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), will feast on the follicle’s contents.This will produce inflammatory chemicals and enzymes.
The body’s white blood cells will fight the bacteria and try to reduce the inflammation. If this inflammation is not reduced, the wall of the plugged follicle eventually breaks down, spilling everything inside (dead skin, oil, bacteria) to nearby skin.
This causes acne.
Some Causes of Acne
There are four main factors contributing to acne:
- Overactive sebaceous(oil producing) glands. Puberty, medications, pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and chronic stress can increase hormone levels which in turn increases sebum (oil). This excess oil is a food source for bacteria.
- Excess dead skin cells. Clogged pores can result due to the accumulation of dead cells on the surface of the skin.
- Harsh cleansers. Using harsh skin care products will impair the moisture barrier creating an environment for bacteria to thrive.
- UV damage. Overexposure to the sun creates harmful free radicals that irritate the skin. When bacteria feasts on the clogged follicle’s contents, the lipase enzyme in the bacteria will break down sebum triglycerides into free fatty acids and cause irritation in the skin. These fatty acids are often attacked by free radicals leading to additional irritation.
Forms of Acne
Acne can be non inflammatory and inflammatory.
Non inflammatory Acne
Comedones: When a clogged hair follicle is closed at the skin’s surface, these slightly raised bumps are called whiteheads. However, when the clogged follicle has an opening at the skin surface, you are likely to see a dark or black bump – a blackhead. Blackheads are dark because of melanin.
When non inflammatory acne is not treated, bacteria will infect the clogged pore giving rise to inflammatory acne.
Papules: These are small, raised bumps that show inflammation is occurring in hair follicles.
Pustules: Larger than papules, these tender bumps have white pus at their tips and signify deeper inflammation.
Nodules: Larger, very painful forms of acne. These bumps remain below the surface of the skin and are large and solid. They are caused when a buildup of secretions occurs deep within hair follicles that are severely clogged.
Cysts: The most severe form of acne, these are very painful, pus-filled lumps that form beneath the skin. Usually, traditional acne treatments are largely ineffective with this form of acne. Their potential to destroy collagen means they present an increased risk of scarring.
What type of acne do you usually get? Inflammatory or non inflammatory? Let me know in the comments below.
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