Living with acne

Almost everyone suffers from acne some time or the other in their life time but the good news is they do get rid of their acne sooner or later.
The A-B-C of acne
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when the pores or hair follicles on the skin are plugged. It mainly affects the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and/or upper arms of sufferers. The oil or sebum produced by the sebaceous glands, which normally drains out of these pores, gets blocked, and bulges out to form blackheads, whiteheads, pimples or cysts (deeper extensive inflamed lesions in the skin). Blackheads are formed when the clogged pores are close to the skin surface.
They are black because of the skin pigment melanin (and not dirt!) in them. Whiteheads represent deeper clogged pores. When the wall of the clogged follicle breaks to release the oil, dead skin and bacteria, it gives rise to small inflamed, pus filled bumps, called pustules, pimples or zits.

Acne flare-ups are commonly caused by overproduction of sebum, which occurs because of hormonal changes seen during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy or during menopause. A skin bacterium, Propionibacteria acnes (P. acnes), is known to cause or aggravate breakouts.
Some oily cosmetics or hair products, and certain drugs may also known to contribute to development of acne.
Acne is also known to run in families.
Though acne is common in teenagers, it can affect any age group including children and adults.  Acne translates into a psycho social condition that may suppress the confidence of a teenager. Hence early treatment is recommended.
Tackling acne
In most cases, mild acne resolves by itself, but moderate to severe cases of acne, if left untreated, may become inflamed, infected and painful, and scar the skin. So it is wiser to seek treatment for acne at an early stage. Several factors such as vitamin deficiency, stress, hormonal imbalances, dietary changes and so on play a role in acne, and it varies in different individuals. Though there is no single, magical cure for acne, though several treatment options are available that can help reduce the breakouts, and prevent scars.
Topical creams or lotions containing benzoyl peroxide, which kills P.acnes bacteria and dries up the oil, or salicyclic acid (an exfoliant that removes dead skin), are available over the counter, and can help tackle mild cases of acne.
Consult a dermatologist if your acne gets worse or refuses to clear up. You may be prescribed class of oral antibiotics such as erythromycin or tetracycline. But don’t take anything without consulting your doctor.
Tips to follow
Following a simple skin care regimen is the first step to keeping acne at bay. Here are some dos and don’ts for acne prone skin.
* Use a gentle cleanser to wash your face. Keep your face clean but avoid washing your face more than two–three times a day. Excessive washing will only dry the skin more and irritate the pores. Use lukewarm water.
* Moisturize your skin with an oil free moisturizer. Use a sunscreen while going out to avoid the harsh effect of UV rays on the skin.
* Remove all traces of make-up at night using a mild soap and water.
* Never ever pop a pimple; it can get worse by getting more inflamed and leave a scar.
* If you have oily hair, rinse it frequently using a mild shampoo.
* Men with acne should try and avoid nicking the pimples while shaving.
* Observe if any particular cosmetic or drugs cause a flare-up of your acne and avoid their use.
* Avoid harsh skin exfoliants or facials.
* Though there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that oily foods, chocolates or other sweets aggravate acne, it is vital to have a healthy and a balanced diet. Include plenty of fiber, fruits and vegetables in your diet.
* Drink plenty of water, at least six–eight glasses a day. It is a natural cleanser which detoxifies the body.
* Stress may trigger hormonal changes and aggravate acne. Incorporate a regular exercise regimen, and get enough sleep every night.
Try not to feel self conscious about your pimples. Be positive and focus on more important things which can boost your confidence and make you feel good about yourself.
Also, follow your skin care regimen and acne treatment schedule diligently. Be patient, since it may take weeks to months for the results to be visible.
Remember, acne is neither a serious disease nor is it going to stay forever!
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Image: Flickr/creativecommons Gregoire Lannoy

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