Written by: Deen Kurrimbux

Acne is a common skin condition that will affect most people at some stage in their lives. It is more prevalent in adolescents or those in transition from childhood to adulthood, although it can spontaneously flare up at any time after adolescence. The affected areas are usually in the face, back and chest. Other locations are also commonplace.

acne female face

The spots range from whitehead and blackheads that usually lie on the surface to deeper, more inflamed cysts which can lead to scarring. The white- and blackheads are so-called due to their colour and firmer appearance and if squeezed will not necessarily empty. Papules are inflamed, soft and painful to the touch as are pustules which contain a build-up of pus. Nodules and cysts are the most painful and potentially damaging type of acne. Nodules are large hard lumps that develop under the skin surface and cysts are large pus-filled lumps that contain the greatest risk of scarring.

acne male face

Keeping the skin clean and grease-free is important but it will not prevent new spots developing. Using emollients (moisturisers) is also recommended if the skin is dry and chafing. While acne isn’t curable it can be controlled with treatments such as the aforementioned creams and lotions. If the acne is severe, it may need stronger methods of control, namely antibiotics or stronger topical creams available on prescription only.

Acne is most commonly linked to the changes in hormone levels during puberty, but can start at any age.  Certain hormones cause the glands next to the hair follicles in the skin to produce larger amounts of sebum. This sebum changes the activity of a usually harmless skin bacterium called P. acnes, which becomes more aggressive and causes inflammation and pus. The hormones also thicken the inner lining of the hair follicle, causing blockage of the pores. There is no evidence to suggest that diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity play a role in the causation of acne.

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