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.