Acne is a very common skin condition that comes in several different types. Acne is often seen in young adults, teens and pre-teens, but it also persists into adulthood for many others. Acne affects a large percentage of humans at some stage in life. It is most commonly experienced around puberty, typically of the face and shoulders/chest and back. The vernacular term “bacne” is often used to indicate acne found specifically on one's back.
Acne is an inflammatory disease of the skin, caused by changes in the pilosebaceous units (skin structures consisting of a hair follicle and its associated sebaceous gland). Excessive secretion of oils from the sebaceous glands combines with naturally occurring dead skin cells to block the hair follicles. There also appears to be in some instances a faulty keritinization process in the skin leading to abnormal shedding of skin lining the pores. Oil secretions build up beneath the blocked pore, providing a perfect environment for the skin bacteria Propionibacterium acnes to multiply uncontrollably. In response, the skin inflames, producing the visible lesion. Acne lesions are commonly referred to as pimples, spots or zits.
Aside from scarring, the main effects of acne are psychological and social, such as reduced self-esteem and depression, and feelings of reduced attractiveness. Acne usually appears during adolescence, when people already tend to be most socially insecure. Severe acne often leaves small scars where the skin gets a "volcanic" shape. Acne scars are difficult and expensive to treat, and it is unusual for the scars to be successfully removed completely. In those cases, scar treatment may be appropriate. The psychological and emotional effects caused by acne scars can be as devastating to one's confidence as the acne itself.
Exactly why some people get acne and some do not is not fully known. It is known to be partly hereditary. Several factors are known to be linked to acne, such as:
- Hormonal activity, such as menstrual cycles and puberty
- Stress, through increased output of hormones from the adrenal (stress) glands
- Hyperactive sebaceous glands, secondary to the three hormone sources above
- Accumulation of dead skin cells
- Bacteria in the pores, to which the body becomes 'allergic'
- Skin irritation or scratching of any sort will activate inflammation
- Use of anabolic steroids
- Any medication containing halogens (iodides, chlorides, bromides), lithium, barbiturates, or androgens
- Exposure to high levels of chlorine compounds, particularly chlorinated dioxins, can cause severe, long-lasting acne, known as Chloracne
There are also many misconceptions and rumors about what does and does not cause acne. Diet was often considered a culprit, but numerous studies have indicated that chocolate, french fries, potato chips and sugar, among others, DO NOT increase the likelihood of acne and skin problems. Acne is also not caused by poor personal hygiene or dirt; in fact, anything beyond very gentle cleansing can actually worsen existing lesions and even encourage new ones by damaging or over-drying skin.Click here for Acne Treatment information