Acne is a skin condition seen as blackheads, whiteheads, pustules and inflamed and infected nodules found on the face, neck, chest and back.
Acne is caused by a blockage to the opening of the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands in the skin. These glands normally produce an oily substance called sebum, which is required to keep the skin supple and healthy. Puberty causes these glands to produce excess oil. At the same time, the dead skin cells lining the skin pores are not shed properly and clog up the follicles. These two effects result in a build-up of oil-producing whiteheads and blackheads (where a darkened plug of oil is visible). This build-up of oil creates an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply. This triggers inflammation and the formation of red or pus-filled spots.
PIMPLES: When a hair follicle becomes clogged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, this debris is irritating to the skin and can cause inflammation. Pus is then created by white blood cells which rush to the site of inflammation to help fight off any infection. When the follicle becomes overloaded it usually bursts on the skin's surface and then heals quickly leaving no permanent scar. Follicles can break underneath the skin and these will take longer to heal.
BLIND PIMPLES: These are the type of lesions, which can have flat or rounded surfaces. Blind pimples can cause pain but are usually not deep seated and scarring does not usually result. The pimple should not be squeezed even if pus does develop, as it may be very painful and increases the risk of scarring.
BLACKHEADS: These appear on the skin as a result of dead skin cells and hardened sebum (natural oil and fluid released by glands) blocking the opening of a hair follicle. The blockage prevents the flow of sebum to the skin surface causing it to become slightly less oily. The blackheads, however, are often unsightly, and, if not treated, can become infected and progress into pimples.
CLOSED BLACKHEADS: Deeper down, in the underlying layers of the skin, closed blackheads occur. Closed blackheads are completely enclosed by the skin with no opening to the exterior or skin surface. Closed blackheads are barely visible and are difficult to remove. These blackheads usually develop into Acne. The skin has to be stretched between the fingers to see small white spots, the size of a pinhead, which are called closed blackheads.
MILIA: This is a disorder of the oil producing glands, which is caused by a build-up of dead skin cells and oily matter trapped beneath the skin. A milia looks like a small pearly grain of sand under the skin. The outer layer of skin grows over the hair follicle and does not allow the matter to escape.
CYSTS: When a hair follicle bursts deep under the skin, the irritating matter and dead cells seep into the surrounding areas and form cysts. Pimples are not to be confused with acne cysts, which are large (five millimetres or more across), painful or tender lumps that are inflamed, and filled with pus. The cyst will usually work its way to the surface, which may take some time and can cause damage to skin tissue. This may result in scarring, which is known as 'pitting'. Often a thickened membrane will form around the debris and medical treatment may be required.
As with all conditions your Doctor should be consulted. Your Doctor will diagnose and treat this condition. Ask your Doctor about the latest advice on this ailment. Sometimes your Doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. If the case is severe there are other treatments available from your Doctor. See the Acne management topic for more information.
Vitamins may be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate.
• Zinc supplementation has been shown to improve Acne in some cases.
• Zinc combined with Vitamin B3 (also known as nicotinamide, niacin or nicotinic acid) and Folic acid helps to manage Acne.
• Vitamin A, as a supplement or in skin preparations, plays an important role in the treatment of Acne. Vitamin A is not suitable for pregnant women.
• Calendula is used widely as a soothing ingredient in skin preparations. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and wound-healing properties.
• Sarsaparilla and Gotu kola, taken orally, have anti-inflammatory properties that may help to improve Acne.
• Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties and has been shown to be an effective treatment in skin preparations for Acne.
1. Ask your Pharmacist or beauty consultant for advice about regular skin treatments to remove and reduce the occurrence of blackheads and pimples. Proper cleansing techniques can reduce the risk of scarring.
2. Follow the diet hints.
3. Your Pharmacist or beauty consultant can instruct you on how to use the cleansing and exfoliation treatments to keep the skin clean.
4. It is best to avoid using thick, oil-based creams and cosmetics if your skin is prone to Acne to help avoid clogging of the follicles, which can cause Acne. Water-based products may be more suitable.
5. If your skin is sensitive, avoid using highly perfumed soaps and cosmetics. Some products use the description 'non-comedogenic' or 'non-acnegenic'. This means the products have been tested and shown not to worsen Acne. Ask your Pharmacist or beauty consultant to recommend the most suitable products for your skin.
6.Consider some nutritional supplements if the diet is inadequate. Your Pharmacist can advice you about supplements, which may help to improve the skin.