Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The ugly "Acne"

Let's face it, most of us have somehow come in contact with this ugly condition we know as Acne. For some of us, it becomes such an embarrassing neon sign, that we try drastic cover-up measures, which honestly can make the condition worse. 
Acne is a common skin condition producing pimples on the face and upper torso and is caused by a buildup of dead skin cells, bacteria, and dried sebum that block the hair follicles in the skin. It is usually in the form of  pimples, cysts, and sometimes abscesses form on the skin, commonly found on the face, chest, shoulders, or back. It is usually caused by an interaction between hormones, skin oils, and bacteria, which results in inflammation of hair follicles. Both cysts and abscesses are pus-filled pockets, but abscesses are somewhat larger and deeper.

Sebaceous glands, which secrete an oily substance (sebum), lie in the dermis, the middle layer of skin. These glands are attached to the hair follicles. Sebum, along with dead skin cells, passes up from the sebaceous gland and hair follicle and out to the surface of the skin through the pores.

When a collection of dried sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria clog the hair follicles, it blocks the sebum from leaving through the pores and acne is formed. If the blockage is incomplete, a blackhead (open comedone) develops (often turning dark due to pollutants in the environment); but if the blockage is complete, a whitehead (closed comedone) develops. The blocked sebum-filled hair follicle promotes overgrowth of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, which is normally present in the hair follicle. This bacterium breaks down the sebum into substances that irritate the skin. The resulting inflammation produces the skin eruptions that are commonly known as acne pimples. Deeper inflammation produces cysts and sometimes an abscess.

Acne occurs mainly during puberty, when the sebaceous glands are stimulated by increased hormone levels,  resulting in excessive sebum production. By a person's early to mid-20s, hormone production stabilizes and acne usually disappears, (but as we all know that is not always true). Other conditions that involve hormonal changes can affect the occurrence of acne as well. For example, acne may occur with each menstrual period in women and may clear up or substantially worsen during pregnancy. The use of certain drugs, particularly corticosteroids and anabolic steroids, can cause acne by stimulating the sebaceous glands. Certain cosmetics may worsen acne by clogging the pores.

Balancing personal and professional responsibilities makes this generation of adults the most time-compressed generation in history, which contributes to chronic stress: the constant, continued and heightened level of stress that throws our adrenal glands into overdrive, which in turn can boost sebum production, setting the stage for acne development. Because acne naturally varies in severity for most people—sometimes worsening, sometimes improving—pinpointing the factors that may produce an outbreak is difficult. Acne is often worse in the winter and better in the summer, maybe because of sunlight's anti-inflammatory effect. There is no relationship, however, between acne and specific foods or sexual activity (in case you were wondering).

Most acne occurs on the face but is also common on the shoulders, back, and upper chest. Using Anabolic steroids typically cause acne on the shoulders and upper back, but of course, hormonal changes can also contribute to this. Typically, there are three levels of acne severity: mild, moderate, and severe. Yet even mild acne can be vexing, especially to teenagers, who see each pimple as a major cosmetic challenge.
Adult cases of acne are often more persistent and more inflammatory than teenage cases. Adult acne is also often accompanied by sensitized skin, or a combination of skin conditions, which makes treatment more challenging. To successfully treat, clear and prevent Adult acne, the causes leading to acne development must be first be controlled; but don’t turn to popular treatments for teenage acne that may be too harsh and irritating.

Acne causing Ingredients:
Lanolin: Derived from the words "lana" for wool and "oleum" for oil, Lanolin is a fatty substance obtained from the sheep’s wool.  While it’s a known emollient with moisturizing properties, it can have skin-clogging capabilities, triggering the cycle of breakouts.
Fragrance: Artificial fragrances can increase acne infection, skin sensitization and photosensitivity.
D & C red pigments: Some of these dyes, which are coal tar derivatives, have exhibited highly comedogenic and acnegenic properties.
Mineral Oil: Mineral Oil physically blocks water loss in the Stratum corneum of the skin layer.  It’s used in many products, however, has been shown to cause and exacerbate acne.

Acne is curable but sometimes takes more than just an over-the-counter product or treatment to work. Contact your physician or you can find out more information at these:
American Academy of Dermatology
Phone: (847) 330-0230, (202) 842-3555, (866) 503-SKIN (7546)
Internet: http://www.aad.org/
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
Phone: (800) 441-2737, (847) 956-0900
Internet: http://www.asds-net.org/
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
Phone: (800) 449-2623
Internet: http://www.aocd.org/index.html