What is Acne?
Acne is often described as a disease involving the sebaceous follicles and hair follicles of the skin. It occurs in people who have a genetic predisposition; if acne runs in the families of both parents; three out of four children may suffer from it. Acne is a condition that most people have experienced at some point in their lives. Whether seen as a teenager, adult or both, those who’ve been unfortunate enough to cross its path know what an incredibly frustrating condition it can be. But what exactly causes acne? Dermatologists and skin therapists alike have studied all possibilities and there are many things that may influence an acne breakout, stress, diet, improper home care, make-up, environmental factors and smoking to name a few.
Some of the main factors behind acne are:
• Sebum production or, oil, is the catalyst for the series of events that result in acne or skin breakouts
• Retention of dead skin cells
Hereditary factors are largely responsible for the amount of sebum produced by the skin. Sebum production is stimulated by the production of testosterone in your body and it tends to fluctuate with your hormone levels. Hormone levels alone are not responsible for sebum production and excess sebum can occur even when testosterone levels aren’t elevated. This occurs because of increased sensitivity to the testosterone but the cause of this phenomenon is unknown.
Excess sebum is often associated with enlarged pores and an oily T-zone. The problem may not be too much oil, but the type of oil. Thicker and stickier oil does not leak on to the surface quite as easily as thinner oil.
Retention Hyperkeratosis is a hereditary condition in which epidermal cells, which are normally constantly shedding, are retained. They stick to the surface of the skin and the inside walls of the follicle. This is simply just a buildup of dead skin cells, and is sometimes complicated by the activity of the cell pushing to the surface at a faster rate. These dead cells combine with excess sebum and bacteria, and can lead to acne.
There are bacteria present in all skin follicles in small numbers. They cannot survive in the presence of oxygen, so when the follicle gets blocked with excess sebum and dead skin cells, the bacteria multiply in great numbers. This may result in inflammatory lesions, meaning they are red and swollen (a typical acne pimple) or non-inflammatory lesions (blackheads and whiteheads).
More than ever before, adults are enduring the challenges of oily and acneic skin conditions. Clinical studies indicate that between 40 and 55 percent of the adult population age 20-40 are diagnosed with low grade, persistent acne and oily skin. According to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, 54 percent of women older than age 25 have some facial acne.
Adult Acne is on the Rise
Triggered by hormones, acne can occur at any stage in our lives. The primary aggravating factor leading to adult acne is chronic stress. We all know that acute stress can cause a breakout from time to time. But chronic, continual stress increases hormone levels, which can lead to an increase in oil production. Combine stress with cosmetics that contain known skin irritants and monthly hormone fluctuations and you have a perfect breeding ground for the formation of adult acne.
Adult acne can be aggravated by internal and external factors. Internally, the psychological effects of adult acne can contribute to continued flare-ups and breakouts. When adults are frustrated by the signs of acne on their skin, it causes additional emotional stress, which contributes to a continued increase in excess activity of the sebaceous glands and leads to the continued cycle of breakouts (and the need to “pick” or “squeeze” breakouts places even more acne-causing bacteria on the skin).
There are many treatments available and depending on the underlying cause of your acne, some may work better than others.
First and most important is a good at home cleaning regimen. While acne is not caused by dirt on the skin, regular cleaning with good skin care products can help to remove the dead skin cells which will help to allow the excess sebum to the surface.
Keep in mind that excess cleaning can be almost as bad as not cleaning as it can damage and dehydrate the skin as well as aggravate inflammatory acne. I recommend cleaning twice per day, morning and night. There are many products available and depending on your particular skin some will work better than others. You may want to use a very active (medicated) cleanser in the morning and a more gentle cleanser in the evening, or use an active cleanser one day and a gentle one the next. You should also exfoliate your skin but how often and with what product or tool is determined by your skin. As a general rule, don’t use too much pressure or scrub to vigorously, make sure any scrubs you use do not contain particles with jagged edges (some nut shell products are a good example of a bad scrub) and be sure to let your skin rest at least 48 hours between scrubs or manual exfoliation. Your skin care professional can help you make the decisions on what is best for your skin.
Once your skin is clean it should be restored to its normal PH level. A good toner will do this for you, and should not contain alcohol. And remember that even oily skin needs moisture and can become dehydrated without it, use an oil free moisturizer.
Masks can be utilized as well for good acne treatments, clay based masks are the best for acneic skin and can be used 2 – 3 times per week.
You may hear buzz words like Alpha Hydroxy, Glycolic or Salicylic Acids or Sulfur and Resorcinol. Check with your esthetician for more information about these products.
Remember that your hands are full of bacteria and picking at acne lesions (or constantly touching your face) can cause inflammation and infection as well as scarring. If you must pick, your skin care professional can give you tips that will help to reduce the risk for scarring and infection.
Some forms of acne may require prescription medications, your esthetician can help you decide if a visit to the dermatologist is in order. Be sure to let your esthetician know if you are on any of these medications.
Some acne breakouts are caused by make-up; make sure that your cosmetics are non-comedogenic. If you experience acne on your cheeks, this is likely the cause and switching your foundation or blush may help to reduce the breakouts.
And of course the stress... stress is a very personal thing but we could all use a little less stress in our lives.
Last but not least, regular visits (at least once or twice a month) to your esthetician for acne facials can be very beneficial.
Fact or Fiction?
Many people believe that diet is a contributing factor for acne breakouts. There is no scientific evidence to support this but keep in mind that a healthy, properly balanced diet is important for good skin and good health and can help in balancing hormones which may in turn, help reduce acne breakouts.
As a final note, young people are experiencing acne problems earlier and earlier. Bring your preteen or teen in at the first sign of acne, blackheads or excess oil production for their first facial and let me educate them on proper skin care habits. Kids tend to respect the opinion of a professional over the opinion of their parent. After all who among us did not know more than their parents did when we were young?
Orchidee Salon and Spa