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Acne vulgaris, or just Acne, is a fairly common, but a painful and often stressful disease, which is faced by most of the 'young ones' (especially adolescents). Owing to its affect on 'the face' of a person, it not only causes the pain associated with the disease, but also leads to anxiety, stress, lowered self-esteem or even suicides (in extreme cases). This article has thus been initiated to provide information about the disease from causes to cure, apart from being a platform for discussions related to Acne.

[Image: 230px-Akne-jugend.jpg]
An indicative image of Acne (courtesy: wikimedia)

 |  NOTE  |
If you voted No to the poll above (i.e you never got any acne in life), then congratulations for having some out of the world genetic make-up! Because, almost every individual on this earth has once/many a times in life, suffered from Acne in one form or the other!

What exactly Acne is?
Acne (or pimples) are result of the blockage of the hair follicles (pores in the human skin: can be observed through a magnifying glass), which are actually connected to oil glands (sebaceous glands) located underneath the skin. An oily liquid, called sebum, is produced by these glands. Apart from hairs growing out of the follicle, sebum carries out the dead skin cells on the surface. It's when these follicles get blocked that a pimple/acne develops (leading to an accumulation of sebum under the skin). Bacteria tend to grow/infect the blocked follicles filled with keratin and lipid making the condition even worse.
[Image: 515_Acne_formation.jpg]
Events leading to Acne (courtesy: wikimedia)

Types of Acne
Often people live with the ignorance that "those red-rashy-puss filled" bumps on the face are typical acne! But the truth is that Acne are of various types; and in fact, some of the most common beauty loop-holes associated with face 'are actually acne' only. Even Blackheads and  whiteheads are also two types of Acne!
Following are the various types of acne:
a) Blackheads
b) Whiteheads
c) Papules & Pustules
d) Back Acne
e) Acne conglobata

Blackheads are one of the most common types of Acne faced by innumerable people across the globe.  Also called as open comedones, blackheads are created out of plugging of the hair follicle and subsequent pushing of the sebum through to the surface. This oil/sebum turns black in color, upon exposure to the air, and buildup of melanin-skin’s dark pigment.
Blackheads are mostly caused to those people whose skin poduces excess of oil.
Quote:It's thus a huge myth that blackheads are caused by dirt, the truth is that they are Acne; and are a result of oxidation of the oil pushed out of plugged follicles & buildup of melanin.
[Image: blackhead.jpg]

White heads are also amongst the most common type of Acne that affect almost everyone (once or manytimes in life). Also called as closed comedones, whiteheads appear on one's skin in the form of a white/creamy bump. As you must have understood from the name (closed comedones), whiteheads appear when the clogged sebum is not exposed to the air and remains trapped in the plugged follicle.
A typical whitehead

Papules and Pustules
Papules and pustules are painful/inflammatory forms of acne, which develop when the walls of the clogged pores end up breaking out of severity/irritation.

Papules appear as closed, red small bumps surrounded by skin inflammation on the face of a person. Unlike blackheads they reveal no visible pores, neither are they white like whiteheads.  They are hard/beady when you touch them.
Example of papules
Pustules are actually those typical pimples that scar one's face. They are severe form of papules. These are mid-sized bumps on the face with marked white-yellow dot (pus/fluid) in the center of it. Inflammation is also associated with them.
Example of pustules

Back Acne
Our back possesses a large number of oil and sweat glands. Back acne thus appear when the follicles leading to the surface for oil secretions get blocked. Puberty is often considered to be the active age for back acne with augmented symptoms in early twenties. Back acne aren't common in adults (post 20 years), though they can appear in some cases.
Trapping of heat/sweat in the body; and aberrations to skin due to friction are also known to cause back acne.
[Image: How-to-Get-Rid-of-Back-Acne-1.jpg]
A typical case of back-acne

Acne conglobata (AC)
Acne conglobata (AC) is the most severe form of acne. It is highly severe, but it is rare. But when it happens, it can affect your chest, buttocks, back, shoulders, thighs, upper arms  and even your face.

AC is characterized by burrowing and interconnecting abscesses on affected region with irregular scars (both keloidal and atrophic). It is highly inflammatory (hence painful) and also leads to significant disfigurement of the region. Cysts and nodules are formed (comedones), with foul smelling seropurulent material. They have the tendency to reappear even after drainage of the material from cysts.

A sudden deterioration of existing active papules/pustules; or recrudescence of acne dormant for many years can cause AC.

[Image: 1048885-1072716-2320tn.jpg]
Nodules and Pustules in AC

How to Avoid Acne? Tips for Skin Care
Acne has a genetic influence, but it is often triggered by following environmental stresses:
  • Oily skin products like moisturizers/cosmetics can cause acne, so choose the cosmetics carefully.
  • Oils/Fats/Grease encountered in kitchen/work.
  • Pressure equipment like Sports helmets that are too tight. Tight clothes can also cause acne.
  • Pollution and high humidity are also major contributors.
  • Avoid sun-tan/sun-burns.
  • Squeezing should be avoided.
  • Avoid hard scrubbing of skin.
  • Avoid Anxiety/Stress! (a single major contributor to all major diseases!!)

Article Under Update

Hi Sunil,

My teenage daughter has some questions for you ..

- How Should People With Acne Care for Their Skin?
- What Research Is Being Conducted on Acne?
- How can I help prevent acne and acne scars .. do antibiotics worsen acne?


Hi Greg,

I will update the article pertaining to your queries as well. For now, here are the answers as per my knowledge:

How Should People With Acne Care for Their Skin? And how to prevent?
Avoid these conditions:
  1. Oily skn products like moisturizers/cosmetics can cause acne, so choose the cosmetics carefully.
  2. Oils/Fats/Grease encountered in kitchen/work.
  3. Pressure equipments like Sports helmets that are too tight. Tight clothes can also cause acne.
  4. Pollution and high humidity are also major contributors.
  5. Avoid suntan/sunburns.
  6. Squeezing should be avoided.
  7. Avoid hard scrubbing of skin.
  8. Avoid Stress! (a singal major contributor to all major diseases!!)

Use following treatments for Acne affected skin:
OTC (over the counter) topical medicines (gels, lotions, creams, soaps, or pads) for mild acne include (i) Benzoyl peroxide, which helps in reducing oil production (ii) Resorcinol, effective against whiteheads and blackheads
(iii). Salicylic acid also helps in fighting whiteheads and blackheads (iv) Sulfur based ointments are also common for counteracting whiteheads and blackheads.

Oral medication of Antibiotics and Vitamin A (and derivatives) are often prescribed for moderate to severe inflammations in acne.

Affect of Antibiotics
Practically, antibiotics are supposed to be bactericidal or atleast slow the growth of bacteria. This helps in reducing inflammation. But some people might get side-effects like gastric problems, dizziness, lightheadedness, skin color changes, and/or increased susceptilbility to sunburns.

Hope it helps
Acne affecting teenagers always seems to cause distress. I remember when I was growing up I hated going out when I had acne (or pimples as they were better known in my school) on my face. I always made an excuse as to why I could not meet up with my friends, but thankfully they became fewer and fewer as I got older until they eventually went. Hence there is hope and now unlike then, there is more research into treatment options, from topical therapies with benzoyl peroxide to antibiotics if required.

Acnes have been a part of my life more than any other teenager!! While i frequently have those red dots on my face, my better half perhaps never does. I have been with her for over two years and never has her skin featured any form of a bump. So she would always tease me for this lame skin i had. And i always thought acnes were genetic, in the sense that some people's bodies secrete hormones that lead to it, while some people's don't. Over the dinner table my mom would have her own theory of how acnes are completely a result of my lack of hygiene and dust and the food that i eat. This article has been and eye opener for me. i have always preferred not to use chemicals ad medicines for my troubles and i would like to know more home remedies and natural tweaks to deal with these. Currently i try not to touch my skin at all when i have an acne and i stop using soap or any other cosmetics on my face and stick to only cold water washes repeatedly throughout the day. It generally takes a day or two but gets better always. Perhaps the best thing is to just accept it till it passes by as after a certain age they become really rare and occasional.
Hello f2014843

How are you? The good thing is you have a partner and have not hidden behind you acne like most people do. I applaud you for trying to use cleaning techniques to control your acne and not picking at them every two minutes. Continue the good work and soon enough they would disappear leaving on a memory.

With regard to home-made or natural remedies try to following and see if it alleviates the problem. The active ingredient contained in Aspirin is salicylic acid, which if you recall is an active ingredient found in most topical acne washes and treatments. After crushing one aspirin in water, make a paste and apply using a cotton swab, to the affected area on your face. Let it dry for about ten minutes and then wash with warm water. Make sure and dry using a clean dry cloth.

Tea tree oil is another natural remedy that is recommended. Using a cotton swab or cotton ball put a few drops onto the cotton swab and gently apply onto the affected acne area. You can opt to leave on overnight or for a couple hours and then wash off. Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that aids with swelling and redness.

Ice can also be used to reduce swelling and redness of any affected acne areas. Ice causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessels reducing blood flow to the area and hence reducing the swelling. This is the basis of using ice for strained ankles. However do not keep on the affected area for long periods as it can become painful, it is best to wrap in a clean cloth and apply to the affected areas in short bursts.

Another homemade remedy that can be used is apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar contains citric acid which helps kill any surface bacteria on your skin. Mix one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water and apply to face using a cotton ball. This can be done after you have washed your face with your cleanser to help get rid of any bacteria.

I hope these simple homemade remedies help you. Let me know how it worked out.

What can you do regarding acne treatment?
For many people affected by acne, the effectiveness of cosmetic skin treatment is not sufficient. These people usually suffer from more severe forms of acne or acne conglobata Papulopustulosa. The good news is that you have effective medical treatments and prescription the earlier the treatment is started the less will be the risk of persistent physical and emotional harm.
What medical treatments are available?
Among the effective medications that can be used to treat acne are the following:
Topical retinoid
Benzoyl peroxide
Topical antimicrobials
Azelaic acid
Oral antibiotics
Oral Isotetrinoína
Oral contraceptives
These medications are used alone or in combination, and dermatologist prescribe the appropriate medication depending on the severity of acne medical treatment symptoms.The follows a strict international standard to ensure that doctors and dermatologists are consistent in their treatment. This science-based * standard provides practicing physicians about what treatments or combinations of treatments used, depending on the severity of acne and individual symptoms. It offers alternatives to account for different skin types and options, if applicable, for female patients. Since certain prescription drugs orally for acne should not be used during pregnancy, especially during the first quarter, dermatologists and doctors may suggest alternatives.
Faced with acne
Acne medication differs depending on the severity of their symptoms.
Woman taking pill
Always tell your doctor about your current medications to avoid any interaction with acne medication.
It is worth pointing out that the treatment of acne, whether medicinal or non-medicinal, need time to take effect.
Although the general rule is for 4-8 weeks, you may need as long as three months’ time; Additional symptoms may worsen before improving. Since it is easy for patients to become discouraged and give up, it is important to persevere and maintain the guidelines, even if an immediate change for the better does not occur.