The perils of pimples

The natural process that lubricates the skin involves the production of oily or waxy matter from the underlying layers of the skin that is progressively poured out onto the skin surface. The oils are key in the mitigation of the loss of water through the skin, maintaining its integrity and minimizing the risk of infections. The processes of oil production take place in the sebaceous glands which open into the hair follicle to release the oil, these glands are most abundant on the face and scalp. However, an overactive process of oil (sebum) production can be problematic in terms of the general cosmetic outlook of an individual and thereby turn into a health hazard. Several related medical conditions caused by over active sebaceous glands include sebaceous cysts, sebaceous adenoma, hyperplasia and acne. With Acne being the most the most prevalent of the fold, we will discuss it here.

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It often causes whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, and usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders. Acne is most common among teenagers, though it affects people of all ages.

Depending on its severity, acne can cause emotional distress and scar the skin. Early intervention is key in the effective management of Acne. The condition typically appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders because these areas of skin have the most oil (sebaceous) glands as noted above.

Acne signs and symptoms vary depending on the severity of your condition:

  • Whiteheads: These are closed plugged pores.
  • Blackheads: These are open plugged pores.
  • Papules: These are small red and tender bumps.
  • Pimples (pustules): These are papules with pus at their tips
  • Nodules: These are large, solid and painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin.
  • Cystic lesions: These are painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the surface of the skin.

 There are factors that trigger and aggravate acne that may include:

  • Androgens are hormones that increase in boys and girls during puberty and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy and the use of oral contraceptives can also affect sebum production.
  • There are groups of medications that have an effect on sebum production and therefore trigger acne. Examples include drugs containing corticosteroids, testosterone or lithium
  • There are studies that have indicated that certain dietary factors, including skimmed milk and carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, bagels and chips may worsen acne.
  • Stress can worsen acne

Contrary to commonly held beliefs about acne, some factors that have been once proposed to have an effect on the progression of acne have been found to very little to no effect. These include:

  • Greasy foods.Eating greasy food has little to no effect on acne.
  • Acne isn’t caused by dirty skin. In fact, scrubbing the skin too hard or cleansing with harsh soaps or chemicals irritates the skin and can make acne worse.
  • Cosmetics don’t necessarily worsen acne, especially if you use oil-free makeup that doesn’t clog pores (noncomedogenics) and remove makeup regularly.

Management of acne.

The interventions in the management of acne include non-prescription products, good basic skin care and other self-care techniques:

  • Washing problem areas with a gentle cleanser.Twice a day, use your hands to wash your face with a mild soap and warm water. If you tend to develop acne around your hairline, shampoo your hair every day. And be gentle if you’re shaving affected skin. Avoid certain products, such as facial scrubs, astringents and masks. They tend to irritate the skin, which can worsen acne. Excessive washing and scrubbing also can irritate the skin.
  • Try over-the-counter acne products to dry excess oil and promote peeling.Look for products containing benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient. You might also try products containing salicylic acid, glycolic acid which may help with mild and moderate acne. It may take a few weeks before you see any improvement. Non-prescription acne medications may cause initial side effects such as redness, dryness and scaling, this often improves after the first month of using them.
  • Avoid irritants.Avoid oily or greasy cosmetics, sunscreens, hairstyling products or acne concealers. Use products labeled water-based or non-comedogenic, these products are least likely to cause or worsen acne.
  • Protect your skin from the sun.For some people, the sun worsens acne. And some acne medications make you more susceptible to the sun’s rays. Check with your pharmacist to see if your medication is one of these. If it is, stay out of the sun as much as possible. Regularly use a non-oily (non-comedogenic) moisturizer that includes a sunscreen.
  • Avoid friction or pressure on your skin.Protect your acne-prone skin from contact with items such as phones, helmets, tight collars or straps, and backpacks.
  • Avoid touching or picking at the problem areas.Doing so can trigger more acne or lead to infection or scarring.
  • Shower after strenuous activities.Oil and sweat on your skin can lead to breakouts.

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