Human skin has pores which connect to oil glands located under the skin. The glands are connected to the pores via follicles - small canals. These glands produce Sebum, an oily liquid. The sebum carries dead skin cells through the follicles to the surface of the skin. A small hair grows through the follicle out of the skin. Acne grow when these follicles get blocked, resulting in an accumulation of oil under the skin.
In humans, acne tend to appear on the face, back, chest, shoulders and neck. However, no one is absolutely sure what causes acne on our skin. Some say that it might be because of a rise in androgen levels when a human becomes an adolescent (whereby the oil glands under your skin grow and produces more oil); other says that excessive sebum breaks down cellular walls in the pores which causes bacteria to grow in the pore which will lead to acne. Some studies also suggest that acne might be genetic and related to hormones especially during pregnancy for women.
Here are six types of acne or pimples:
- Papules - small pink bumps visible on the surface of the skin
- Cysts - clearly visible on the surface of the skin, cysts are painful, and are filled with pus and are easily turned into scars if not treated well
- Whiteheads – very small white buds under the skin, creating small uneven bumps on the skin
- Nobules – large and solid pimples that are clearly visible on the surface of the skin, painful and are embedded deep in the skin, they need to be treated with extra care too
- Blackheads - clearly visible black spots on the surface of the skin, which are not caused by dirt
- Pustules - red at their base and have pus at the top, they are clearly visible on the surface of the skin
Acne medications comes in many forms of gels, soaps, pads, creams and lotions. Those with sensitive skin may prefer a cream or lotion while gels, which are usually alcohol-based and tend to suit people with oily skin. It is also advisable to start acne treatment with the lowest strengths. As skin irritation may be felt that even redness or burning at the first tries. However, these side effects usually go away after continued use. If in any case they do not, please do consult your doctor.
Most acne care products will have the following active ingredients:
- Benzoyl Peroxide: this kills bacteria and slows down production of oil in the pore glands. A white crystalline peroxide used in bleaching and as a catalyst for free radical reactions, Benzoyl peroxide is also a peeling agent, accelerating skin turnover and clearing pores. And so reduces the bacterial count in the affected acne area.
- Azelaic Acid: this strengthens cells that line the follicles, stops oil eruptions and reduces bacteria growth. Also a type of saturated dicarboxylic acid naturally found in wheat, rye, and barley, Azelaic acid also mops up free radicals, which reduces inflammation. In this case very useful for patients that have acne spots that leave persistent brown marks.
- Salicylic Acid: this helps break down blackheads and whiteheads, it is also effective in reducing shedding of cells and in treating inflammation and swelling. A white crystalline substance used as a fungicide, or in making aspirin or dyes or perfumes, Salicylic acid causes the epidermis to shed skin more easily, preventing pores from becoming blocked while at the same time giving room for new cell growth.
A well-balanced pH level of the skin is very crucial when your skin is acne prone. Daily gentle cleansing, treatment gels and creams are needed to keep the skin acne-free (and hopefully scar-free too). Other products like toner and moisturizers are also needed to keep your skin healthy.