An Introduction to Acne

Acne affects millions of people each day in varying degrees of severity. Here is a look at the skin condition and what you need to know about it.

The clinical term for acne is “acne vulagris”, though this usually gets shortened to simple “acne”. This skin condition has several types and causes, though all present in similar forms. You can characterize acne by inflammation on the surface of the skin. This inflammation may appear as blackheads, cysts, nodules, papules, pimples, pustules, and whiteheads. The inflammation is caused by a variety of factors, including extra oil in the skin, hormonal changes, inflammation, and excess bacteria. Acne can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race. This makes it a universal concern for those who suffer from it, making it even more important to understand how it starts and what you can do about it.

Many people confuse pimples with acne and use the two terms interchangeably. However, this is not quite correct – the pimple is a swelling in the skin that is caused by the acne itself. They will often look like small bumps that are either red or flesh-colored. Acne itself is more serious, and can cause swelling if not treated properly. There are a few ways that the different forms of acne develop and become visible.

In your skin are millions of little glands that produce oil. The oil helps to keep your skin lubricated and supple. However, sometimes these glands will go into overdrive, usually in response to hormones, and become blocked. When this happens, bacteria can grow in the skin. Often, the hair follicle or pore associated with the gland will become blocked as well, causing the acne that you can see on the surface of the skin. If the bacteria and oil remain under the skin, you will see a whitehead start to form. However, if the oil and bacteria are slightly exposed on the surface of the skin, melanin will turn the bump black, causing blackheads.

Acne can vary in severity from one person to the next. Some people have a bigger problem with pimples that with acne itself. Pimples generally cause less scaring than acne, so usually acne is considered more severe and in need of treatment. Blackheads are also generally more serious than whiteheads, since it takes longer for the oil and bacteria to make it to the surface of the skin. This causes the acne to persist for longer periods of time. On the other hand, a whitehead leaves the oil and bacteria where it is easy to pop out. However, it is not a good idea to pop either form of acne, as this can lead to further infection and scarring.

Instead, if you have persistent pimples or acne, you should consult your dermatologist. He or she can recommend medications or other treatments that will help reduce the number of acne breakouts and heal the inflammation. Always use treatments as directed, since abuse can over dry your skin and cause further irritation, redness, and sensitivity.