Many people suffer in silence; especially teenagers, when they sprout acne. Instead of dealing with the problems they either start experimenting with different products or withdraw in a shell when the problem aggravates. The core culprit is ignorance about acne. Here we try to answer a few queries that usually crop up while dealing with pimples.
8 Frequently Asked Questions About Acne
Q: What causes acne?
A: Acne is caused when the hair follicles clog due to excessive sebum and dead skin cells. Typically what happens is that, especially during puberty, the hormone androgen sometimes over stimulates the oil glands called sebaceous glands. These glands are present with the hair shaft in the follicles. When the sebum (oil) is secreted it passes through the hair shaft onto the skinís surface. However when it is produced excessively it overfills the shaft. At the same time the skin sheds cells which also get mixed up with the excessive oil thus plugging the hair shaft leading to a swelled follicle. When it stays unexposed it is termed as a whitehead. If it gets exposed to the surface level and comes in contact with oxygen, it turns black and it is called a blackhead.
The swelled follicle then gets infected by p. acnes bacteria leading to inflammation. Such swellings are then termed as papules, pustules, nodules and cysts depending upon the degree of inflammation.
Q: Is acne curable?
A: Acne is not curable. However it can be treated with the help of over the counter products or prescription drugs depending upon the severity of acne breakouts.
Q: Is acne common to teen age only?
A: Though acne is common during puberty (mostly teenage and early adulthood), many adults, especially women sprout acne. In women it is a common phenomenon as acne sprouts during hormonal changes (menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause).
Some men are also prone to acne breakouts especially those who have had to deal with the same during their growing up years.
Q: Is it OK to pop or squeeze pimples?
A: Squeezing out pimples is a common habit, which should not be encouraged. When one squeezes or pops the pimple, the bacteria and infection gets embedded further into the skin and spreads to the adjoining surface. It also causes scarring which might be permanent.
Q: When should one consult a dermatologist?
A: Mild acne breakouts can be treated using OTC medications (topical creams/gels/lotions/cleansers) comprising of benzoyl peroxide, beta – hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid. In severe cases, though, if you do not find any significant difference (within 6 ñ 8 weeks of treatment), it is better to consult a dermatologist who will determine the cause of acne and prescribe treatment accordingly.
Q: What are the treatments for acne?
A: Mild acne can be treated using topical creams, lotions, gels or cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide/salicylic acid/glycolic acid/beta – hydroxy acid. In severe cases doctors recommend various treatments which could take the form of oral or topical antibiotics, birth control pills for treating pimples due to hormonal imbalances as well as dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser resurfacing therapy, light based technologies for acne scars.
Q: When is a treatment considered successful or complete?
A: The window period for any skincare treatment is 6 to 8 weeks. Within this time period one can determine the efficacy of the topical treatment especially the OTC variety. For severe acne, the duration is comparatively longer and one cannot pinpoint when to stop the treatment. It is prudent to continue the treatment even after the pimples disappear because some infections are dormant and become visible as soon as the treatment is stopped. The best method to treat pimples is to reduce the application gradually.
For other scar treatment procedures, the doctor is the best judge. She/he will advise on the duration of the treatment.
Q: Will washing frequently remove pimples?
A: It is a misconception that pimples are caused due to dirty skin or bad hygiene. Typically, when pimples sprout people start scrubbing or washing their face frequently thinking that this will remove the pimples. Actually, this will make matters worse. Scrubbing will aggravate the problem as the sebaceous glands will produce even more oil to counter the drying of skin due to frequent washing/cleansing.
The best possible way forward is gently cleaning the face twice a day with mild soap or face wash to remove any residual dead skin and oil. Dab with a soft towel and apply the cream/lotion/gel.
The author has authored numerous articles on acne, aroma therapy, hair care, weight loss and yoga. You can also visit his website Obagi Clear to read more on skin related topics.