Acne affects nearly everyone at one point in their lives and it is nothing to stress too much about. It will most commonly develop on the face and back, with the chest being affected for around 15 per cent of those with acne, according to NHS figures.
Acne can be caused when the small hair follicles in the skin become blocked. This occurs when the tiny sebaceous glands near the skin surface start producing too much sebum, an oily substance that helps to lubricate the hair and prevent it from drying out. When the excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells, the follicle plug up.
When the follicle is close to the surface, it will begin to bulge outwards, creating a whitehead, while if the follicle is open to the skin, this is what causes blackheads. If these blocked follicles are then contaminated with the usually-harmless bacteria, this can lead to further problems such as papules, nodules, pustules and even cysts.
The different spot types are:
- Blackheads - small black or yellow bumps on the skin
- Whiteheads - like blackheads but will be firmer and have a white middle
- Papules - small red bumps that may feel sore
- Pustules - like papules but have a white tip in the centre filled with pus
- Nodules - large hard lumps under the surface of the skin that can be quite painful
- Cysts - large, pus-filled lumps like boils and can cause permanent scarring
Acne affects teenagers the most and this is because of the increasing levels of testosterone in bodies. This hormone will stimulate the growth and development of the penis in boys and maintain the strength of bones and muscles in girls. Past studies have shown that increased testosterone will cause the sebaceous glands to produce even more sebum than the skin would need.
It is also believed that acne is hereditary, as you are more likely to develop it if one or both of your parents had the condition. Adults are less likely to develop acne, but 80 per cent of cases in adults will occur in women, due to the various hormone changes that they will undergo. These include just before a period is due, in the first three months of a pregnancy or sufferers of polycystic ovary syndrome. For others, acne can often be a side effect of meditation, such as lithium which is used to treat depression.
If the acne is spreading and causing a huge dent in your self-confidence then it is important to speak to your GP as soon as possible. The acne could scar or damage your skin tissue or you may find yourself spiralling into anxiety, stress or even depression, so speak to someone. Also be sure to fully do your research online and quash any myths about acne. In the past, it was believed that a poor diet and poor hygiene can be major causes of acne, but recent reports have suggested that this is not the case.