Acne can be an incredibly frustrating condition that many individuals face at some time in their life. Although we like to believe that breakouts and blemishes are something that only happens to us during our teenage years, acne is actually a problem that can appear at various stages throughout your lifetime.
If you suffer from acne, you’ll want to understand exactly what acne is, how it may appear, and what potential treatment options are.
What Is Acne?
Acne can come in many different forms. At its core, it’s a skin problem that begins when the pores in your face become clogged. You may experience acne in the form of blackheads, pimples, pustules, cysts, and whiteheads. Pimples and zits can form in many different ways, each stemming from a different reason.
Acne can affect anyone at any age. While some individuals are blessed with clear, zit-free skin, others may find that the struggle to eliminate acne is a challenge they will always face.
Acne also appears in various levels of severity. It is not uncommon for all individuals to experience a zit or two periodically throughout the month or year. Others may suffer from mild or moderate acne, where they have at least one zit at all times. For those with severe acne, it could mean they have dozens or even hundreds of pimples all over the face, neck, and back.
Signs and Symptoms of Acne
While we normally associate acne with breakouts on the face, acne can actually appear just about anywhere on the body. However, it typically appears on the face, check, neck, or back.
An acne flare-up is typically referred to as a breakout. Individuals may experience a breakout seemingly out of nowhere, while others may have consistent breakouts without much relief. The severity of these breakouts and the length of time they stay will depend on the person, their body, and how they treat the acne.
For some, acne may only appear as blackheads or whiteheads. A blackhead is a pore that is clogged, but rather than swelling and producing pus as a pimple would, a blackhead appears like the pore is filled with a black dirt-like material. On the other hand, whiteheads are small, white bumps that do not typically pop the same way a pimple would.
Other individuals may experience acne in the form of pimples, which are full of sebum and pop if you squeeze them. For individuals with severe or hormonal acne, they may experience deep and painful cysts. Cystic lesions can grow to be pretty large and often remain under the skin. This kind of acne typically causes scarring.
Depending on the severity of the acne, there may be mental symptoms or signs. Because acne is connected to having low self-esteem, individuals who suffer from severe or persistent acne may also need treatment for depression.
Causes of Acne
Although many people like to blame acne on having dirty skin, there is most likely an underlying issue that is actually causing your skin to break out. Because there are so many different kinds of acne, there are also many different causes of acne. Some of the main causes of acne include genetics, hormones, lifestyle factors, and diet.
We typically see acne causing a problem for individuals when their hormones are not in balance. For teenagers, an imbalance of hormones can cause oil production to increase. When there is too much oil on the skin, pores can become clogged more easily, causing breakouts.
Women also tend to suffer from acne that is caused by hormones. Before their menstrual cycle, women may experience more pimples than they do at other times of the month. Others may find that pregnancy causes them to break out, even if they had always had clear skin.
Genetics can also play into whether or not you will suffer from acne. If your parents have struggled with acne for most of their lives, you may also find that acne is a problem. However, your parents may both have clear skin while you suffer from breakouts.
Finally, there are outside factors that may cause you to breakout. Lifestyle factors, such as not using the correct products or living in an area high in air pollution, may cause you to breakout. Stress may also cause your skin to become irritated and pimples to appear. Eating unhealthy foods, such as greasy fast food or foods high in sugar, may cause acne to be more severe. Acne has also been linked to dairy products.
Top Treatment Options for Acne
The best treatment for your acne will be determined by the cause of your acne. However, the best relief may come from both non-prescription treatments and prescription acne treatments, or a combination of both.
For mild acne, you can usually find relief through over the counter medications and a change of diet. There are many common products found in over the counter face washes or acne treatments, including benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These are usually great options for blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.
Prescription acne treatments can include oral antibiotics, topical treatments such as gels or creams, and extractions performed by a doctor. Doctors may also recommend treatments that include laser skin resurfacing or microdermabrasion to reduce acne and treat left over scars. To use one of these treatment forms, you will need to visit a dermatologist who can help you determine the best prescriptions for you and your specific needs.
For the most severe kinds of acne, a prescription for Accutane may be advised. Accutane is usually reserved for when other medications or treatments do not work to relieve breakouts, although it can have some serious side effects.
Alternative and Homemade Acne Treatments
Relief from acne can also come from practicing good skin care at home. This comes from taking proper care of your skin and body, eating the right foods, and keeping dirt away from your face.
To reduce your acne through alternative treatments, you will want to stop picking and squeezing your zits. Picking or attempting to pop zits can increase bacteria while further irritating the skin. You will also want to use non-irritating products, such as a gentle face wash and moisturizer.
If you are still struggling to find relief from your acne, begin washing and changing your pillow cases more frequently. Because your pillowcases can attract dead skin cells, oils from your skin or hair, and bacteria from drool, it may be causing your pores to clog.
Finally, be sure you are drinking enough water and avoiding unhealthy foods or foods that you may react to. To determine if certain foods, such as dairy or gluten, are causing you to breakout, you can keep a food journal to identify connections to new zits.
Acne is something that many individuals deal with at some point in their lives, but it is not necessarily something that we must live with. If you want to start seeing clearer skin, you will need to learn to listen to what your skin needs or wants to avoid. With the help of an expert dermatologist and potentially some prescription medications, having clear and beautiful skin can be in your future.