The term “acne” encompasses comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), papules (pimples), pustules, cysts, and nodules. These blemishes can manifest on nearly any area of the body, but are most problematic where oil glands are concentrated – on the face, neck, chest, back, and arms.
Acne occurs when oil glands and ducts in the skin become plugged with sebum, oil and dead skin cells, resulting in inflammation. Many factors contribute to or aggravate the blockage: heavy moisturizers, make-up, and sunscreens; heredity, sticky skin cells, and excess oil production; bacteria, hormones, and stress.
This condition is widespread, impacting an estimated 95 percent of the United States population (both male and female and all ethnic backgrounds) at some point in their lives. About one quarter of those acne sufferers are over the age of 25. Flare-ups are often associated with hormonal changes such as puberty (both genders), menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
Acne may not be life threatening, but it can have a devastating impact on the lives of sufferers. Performance in school, at work, and in social situations declines as a result of the embarrassment of acne breakouts and scarring.
Some simple tactics help to prevent and control acne:
- Stress-management techniques are helpful, as acne can flare around exams or before major events.
- Gently wash your face twice a day with warm (not hot) water.
- Shower and wash hair daily.
- Use only non-comedogenic cosmetics and skin care products. Sunscreen can be used, just make sure it’s non-greasy and doesn’t clog your pores.
- Don’t pick or squeeze if you get a pimple.
- See a dermatologist if your acne does not respond to over-the-counter treatment.
Severe acne can cause life-long scarring. Your dermatologist can prescribe topical antibiotic and vitamin A-based (retinoid) creams, oral antibiotics, birth control pills, hormone therapy, Isotretinoin, chemical peels, and laser and light therapies before acne leaves a permanent mark.
Help is also available for acne scarring, those red or dark marks, or pocked indentations, left by acne. Don’t let acne control your life. Control acne with the help of your dermatologist.
Do certain foods cause acne breakouts?
Although there isn’t clear evidence that eating certain foods causes acne, recent studies have indicated there may be a link between eating a diet rich in high-glycemic foods (e.g., white bread, potatoes, and corn syrup) and dairy may lead to acne flare-ups. This is because these foods can cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike as well as cortisol and other hormonal reactions in your body. These responses may stimulate breakouts in some people.
Chocolate is a popular food that people tend to associate with acne, but there has been no definitive proof that this is the case. More likely, the sugar, milk, and other ingredients may be the culprits if you notice a link between your chocolate consumption and breakouts. In the end, our dermatologists recommend that if you notice acne developing after eating certain foods, it may be best to avoid those items.
Does getting pimples mean my face isn’t clean enough?
Practicing good daily facial hygiene is an important step for maintaining clear skin, but if you have acne, this doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t keeping your skin clean enough. In fact, you may develop breakouts from being too harsh on your face, such as scrubbing too hard or using alcohol-based astringents that can irritate your skin. We advise patients to wash their face in the morning and at night using a mild soap and warm water and only apply non-comedogenic products to their skin. If you already have good hygiene habits, your acne may be triggered by another factor, such as hormones, which often requires more than just a good skin care routine.
Why is acne most common in teenagers?
The most common trigger for acne is hormone fluctuation, especially testosterone. Since teenagers go through puberty, their hormones are at an all-time high, which often translates to frequent acne breakouts in both young men and women.
Why do some adults get acne?
Even though acne is typically associated with the teenage years, it can still occur in adults. Hormone levels can change at any age, and this is especially common in women during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
If you would like more information about acne and its causes, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dermatologists, please contact us today.