What is Acne?
Acne is an extremely common and unpleasant problem. Most of us have or will suffer from this condition but, surprisingly, not many of us actually understand either what it is or how it develops.
Acne is a skin condition that involves overactive oil/sebaceous glands. Our body always produces oil (or sebum) in a natural process that serves to provide moisture and lubrication for our skin but when the glands are unable to regulate this production problems can occur. The most common of these problems is the development of acne.
Overproduced oil can easily become trapped in our skin’s oil ducts along with shed skin cells and this blockage leads to common forms of acne like pimples (small, often pus-filled swellings), blackheads (dark skin marks containing a mixture of blocked skin cells and accumulated oil), cysts (pockets of semisolid matter and fluid that has become trapped beneath the skin) and whiteheads (white or flesh-coloured, pus-filled bumps).
Almost all areas of our skin can develop pimples but it most commonly occurs where the highest number of oil glands are located (the chest, shoulders, back and face).
What Causes Acne?
The cause for acne is, unfortunately, an extremely common one that effects nearly everyone at one time or another in their lives. Androgen hormones (produced by our adrenal glands) cause oil glands to enlarge, producing more of the substance than is necessary. This leads to the pores being unable to naturally filter this excess to the skin’s surface. Once the pores have been blocked shed skin cells (from pore linings) are unable to be disposed of through natural processes. These cells form a blockage that combines with the oil to create acne.
What are the Risk Factors for Acne?
Unfortunately everyone is susceptible to developing pimples and zits. It most commonly develops around puberty and lasts for three to four years after first appearance (in some cases, however, acne can continue for eight to twelve years). Acne is usually considered to be a teenage phenomenon (because of the hormonal changes that lead to excessive oil production during this time) but it can also effect people of different ages as well.
Because hormones play such a large role in oil production, fluctuations in hormonal levels can cause acne to develop at different times. Researchers have found a link between menstruation and acne flare-ups with women for instance. The development of severe breakouts is experienced mostly by men due to the fact that men naturally produce more androgen. Both of these causes lead to breakouts.