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Acne & Breakouts

Acne is one of the top and most common skin conditions that people struggle with, and usually present in adolescence and sometimes progress right through to adulthood. The formation of acne is due a number of events that all link together which include the hair follicles being clogged and inflamed from increased sebum (sebaceous glands) activity in the skin and dead skin cells, and a certain bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) in the sebaceous glands. It is characterised with whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules and sometimes nodules or cysts. Common names other than acne are pimples, breakouts, zits and spots, this condition can present anywhere on the body but most commonly on the face, back, and chest because that is where oil glands are most abundant and active.

 

Whiteheads  (closed  comedone)  are  described  as  small  non-inflammatory  lesions  filled  with  sebum  and  keratin  creating  a  blockage  that  sit  underneath  the  skin’s  surface  and  naked  to  the  eye.  Whereas,  blackheads  (open  comedone)  as  the  name  suggest  are  black  in  appearance  with  an  opening  filled  with  oxidised  sebum  and  skin  debris.  Both  whiteheads  and  blackheads  are  the  precursors  to  all  acne  lesions,  and  may  or  may  not  develop  into  red  bumps  with  pus-filled  lesions  due  to  inflammation.  Papules  (no  pus  in  the  lesion)  and  pustules  (pus  filled  lesion)  may  form  when  inflammation  is  present  due  to  our  body’s  natural  defence  system  aiming  to  kill  the  P. acnes  bacteria.  However,  when  these  lesions  persist  and  stay  inflamed  in  the  skin  they  can  develop  into  nodules  and  cyst.  There several factors that contribute to acne, these include:

  • Sebaceous  gland  activity:  oil  (sebum)  is  trapped  within  the  hair  follicle  due  the  skin  cells  unable  to  shed  properly  and  being  accumulated   

  • Hormones: increased activity of the male hormone (androgens) during adolescent years and can persist through to adulthood. This hormone stimulates the production of sebum resulting in whiteheads and blackheads. Women going through pre or during menstrual cycles may notice breakouts due to hormones being stimulated

  • Inflammation and bacteria: the blockages within the hair follicles create an ideal environment for the acne bacteria (P. acnes) to breed and accumulate contributing to inflammation that you see in acne lesions

  • Stress: our adrenal glands (another hormone) produces more androgens when the body experiences stress and this can exacerbate the acne condition

The healing progression of acne can fluctuate, redness and post inflammatory pigmentation can also be seen in association with acne development. For some people they may experience acne when they were a teenager and only see a burst of breakouts here and there. However, for others it can be a recurring problem and can affect their self-image. It is important to find the right skin product and sometimes a combination of approaches is needed when dealing with acne.

 

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