Banish those breakouts

SKIN CARE

Banish those  breakouts

Acne vulgaris (commonly called acne) is a common skin condition. It is caused by changes in the skin structure consisting of a hair follicle and its associated sebaceous gland through androgen stimulation. It is characterised by non-inflammatory follicular papules or comedones and  inflammatory papules, pustules and nodules in its more severe forms. Acne vulgaris affects the areas of skin with the densest population of sebaceous follicles. These areas include the face, the upper part of the chest and back. The face and upper neck are the most commonly affected, but the chest, back and shoulders may also develop acne.
 
 Acne is most common during adolescence, affecting more than 85 per cent of  teenagers. It frequently continues into adulthood.  The cause in adolescence is generally an increase in the male sex hormone, which youngsters of both genders accrue during puberty. It is more common in women than in men during adulthood.  
Acne vulgaris may be present in the first few weeks and months of life when a newborn is still under the influence of maternal hormones and when the androgen-producing portion of the adrenal gland is disproportionately large. Neonatal acne resolves spontaneously. 

Adolescent acne usually begins prior to the onset of puberty, when the adrenal gland begins to produce and release more androgen. For most people, acne diminishes over time and tends to disappear or — at the very least — decrease after one reaches one’s early twenties. There is, however, no way to predict how long it will take to disappear entirely and some individuals will continue to suffer well into their thirties, forties and beyond.  

What causes acne?

Four key factors are responsible for the development of an acne lesion. These factors are follicular epidermal hyperproliferation with subsequent plugging of the follicle, excess sebum, the presence and activity of Propionibacterium acnes and inflammation. 

Acne develops as a result of a blockage in follicles. Hyperkeratinisation and formation of a plug of keratin and sebum (microcomedo) is the earliest change. The microcomedo may enlarge to form an open comedo (blackhead) or closed comedo (whitehead).  Whiteheads are the direct result of skin pores becoming clogged with sebum — a naturally occurring oil — and dead skin cells. Propionibacterium acnes can cause inflammation, leading to inflammatory lesions (papules, infected pustules, or nodules) in the dermis around the microcomedo or comedo, which results in redness and may result in scarring or hyperpigmentation.

In comedonal acne, no inflammatory lesions are present. Comedonal lesions are the earliest lesions of acne and closed comedones are the precursor lesion of inflammatory lesions. Mild inflammatory acne is characterised by inflammatory papules and comedones.  Moderate inflammatory acne has comedones, inflammatory papules and pustules.  Greater numbers of lesions are present than in milder inflammatory acne. 

Tracing the trouble spots

Several factors are known to be linked to acne and a few of them are:
nFamily/Genetic history: The tendency to develop acne runs in families. A family history of acne is associated with an earlier occurrence of acne and an increased number of retentional acne lesions.

*Hormonal activity during menstrual cycles and puberty: During puberty, an increase in androgen causes the follicular glands to enlarge and secrete more sebum.

*Inflammation, skin irritation or scratching will only worsen the condition.

*Stress: While the connection between acne and stress has been debated, scientific research indicates that “increased acne severity” is “significantly associated with increased stress levels”. 

*Hyperactive sebaceous glands, secondary to the hormone sources.
 
*Accumulation of dead skin cells that block or cover pores.

*Use of anabolic steroids.

*Any medication containing lithium, barbiturates etc. 

*Exposure to certain chemical compounds. Chloracne is particularly linked to toxic exposure to dioxins, namely chlorinated dioxins. 

*Exposure to halogens. Halogen acne is linked to exposure to halogens (iodides, chlorides, bromides, fluorides).

*Chronic use of amphetamines or other similar drugs.  
 
Natural remedies

*Apply a honey mask on your face once or twice a week. Honey has antibacterial properties so it helps in healing minor blemishes.  It is also gentle on sensitive skin.

*Wash your face twice a day with medicated soap. Be extremely gentle on your skin when you wash and don’t use a  rough towel.  Washing your face too frequently could actually stimulate your sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, thus increasing your acne.

*Keep your hair off your face. Your hair contains oil and will contribute to acne breakouts. 

*Eat carrots for beta-carotene.  Vitamin A strengthens the protective tissue of the skin and actually prevents acne. It helps reduce sebum production.  This vitamin is essential for the maintenance and repair of the tissue which the skin and mucous membranes are made of. Vitamin A is also a powerful antioxidant that can rid your body of toxins.

*Leaving your make-up on only contributes to clogging your skin pores, causing more pimples and blackheads.  If you  must wear makeup, be sure it is water-based.

*Drink 8-10 glasses of water. Drinking water is essential for clean skin and overall health. It flushes toxins from your body.  

*Do not pick or squeeze your blackheads and pimples.  As tempting as it may be, do not squeeze, scratch, rub or touch your pimples and blackheads.  Such actions actually increase sebum production and you could end up rupturing the membranes below your skin, causing infection. The result is more pimples.

*Keep your sheets and pillow case clean.  Your pillow case absorbs the oils from your skin, thus causing breakouts.

*Eat foods rich in zinc like wholegrain flour.  Zinc is an antibacterial agent and a necessary element in the oil-producing glands of the skin. A diet low in zinc can  cause acne breakouts.

Acne vulgaris is common and affects nearly everybody at some time in their lives.  Although overall health is not impaired, acne is not a trivial condition; it can produce emotional scars that may last for a long time.

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