What is Acne?
AAt some point in our lives, we have all experienced horror at the emergence of a pimple or two on our faces. However for some people, that pimple or two may get completely out of control and develop into acne. Acne is a skin condition that affects the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands) and results in clogged pores and flare-ups of lesions or pimples. The pores in the skin become clogged with an oily substance called sebum and are connected to the glands by follicles.
These follicles clog up the skin and a pimple develops. Certain body areas such as the forehead, face, neck, back, shoulders and chest are most commonly affected. Acne is most common amongst teenagers and young adults, but can affect people of all races and ages.
It tends to disappear when you reach your twenties but people in their forties and fifties have been known to experience acne outbreaks. Although acne is not life threatening, it can cause scarring. If left untreated, acne can also lead to deep emotional issues such as low self esteem, depression and anxiety.
What causes Acne?
The exact cause of acne is unknown but there are several factors that may contribute to this skin condition.
These factors include:
- Genetics (will most likely affect you if other family members had acne)
- Hormones (hormonal changes during puberty, or monthly periods)
- Infections (germs such as bacteria may cause acne)
- Certain medications (steroids, anticonvulsants, hormones or birth control pills may cause acne)
- Skin cosmetics (moisturizers, makeup and cosmetics clog the pores of the skin and cause acne)
- Environmental conditions (humidity can increase the outbreak of acne)
How is Acne diagnosed?
Diagnosing acne is fairly straightforward and is usually done by means of a thorough examination of the skin and medical history. Sometimes, cultures are also performed –samples from your skin or acne discharge (pus) that are taken and sent to a laboratory to check for bacteria.
There are various types of pimples and these include:
- Whiteheads (pimples that remain under the surface of the skin)
- Blackheads (pimples that rise to the surface of the skin and are black in color)
- Papules (small, pink bumps that may be tender)
- Pustules (pimples that are red at the bottom and have pus on top)
- Nodules (large, painful pimples that are deep within the skin)
- Cysts (deep, pus-filled, painful pimples that cause scars)
Help and treatment for people with Acne
If acne is treated early, it usually responds well to treatment. The main aim of treatment is to stop new pimples from forming, heal pimples, prevent scarring and lessen the embarrassment associated with acne.
Mild to moderately severe acne may be treated with over-the-counter gels, lotions, and creams such as benzoyl peroxide which is applied directly to the skin. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation while oral contraceptives have also shown to improve acne.
In episodes where acne is extremely severe, another oral medication known as Isotretinoin (Accutane) is one of the most effective treatments with successful results. However, all these medications can cause negative side effects and it is important that you inform your health practitioner or dermatologist immediately.
It is also important to develop a good skincare routine that involves cleansing your skin in the mornings, evenings and after workouts. By adjusting your lifestyle and incorporating a healthy diet, exercise, drinking lots of water and getting adequate sleep will also help to make a significant difference to your skin’s appearance.
Herbs have proven to be a more natural, gentle alternative for the treatment of acne rather than the harsh, synthetic chemicals used in over-the-counter products and conventional medications. Not only are herbal remedies safe and effective to use, they also support the skin, immune and digestive systems.
Two carefully selected herbal ingredients such as Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil), Azadirachta indica and Arctium lappa contain antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties and are not only effective for acne but for other skin conditions too. Other herbs such as Aspalathus linearis (Rooibos) and Bulbine frutescence have wonderful antioxidant and healing properties and also help to prevent skin infection and provide ongoing relief. In addition, Lavender Essential Oil acts as a circulatory stimulant and antiseptic, and is used to treat burns and wounds and to prevent scarring.