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Acne 101

Acne is an infection of the skin. The most common kind of acne found in people is called Acne Vulgaris. It means and you guessed it right common acne! Acne has many other names like pimples, zits, spots, bumps and blemishes to lesser known ones like papules and pustules. Whatever you choose to call it, one thing is for sure that everyone at some point in their lives may experience this dreaded skin disorder! Majority of the sufferers are teenagers but adults are not safe either. It can affect the adults and can continue to plague the women during the hormonal changes caused by menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause.

The activity that takes place in our skin is quite intriguing to say the least. There are small and tiny holes in the skin called the pores. These pores are connected to the oil glands under the skin called sebaceous glands. These sebaceous glands secrete an oily and yellow substance called sebum that normally empties onto the skin surface through the opening of the pore. The secreted sebum job is to keep the skin and hair lubricated. The pores are connected to the sebaceous glands by a canal called a follicle. A hair grows through the follicle and goes out to the skin. The hair follicle cells produce keratin which is dead skin cells that joins the oil through the pores. Bacteria are also present within the follicle. Oil, keratin and bacteria travels through the pore opening. This makes up a thick material and can act like a glue. If the pore opening becomes blocked, then acne can start. When the pores are blocked, the oil, bacteria and keratin cannot get out of the skin. This is where the pressure builds up inside the pore and follicle expands like a balloon. As a result, follicle walls stretch to the max and finally tear and leak into the surrounding tissues. Inflammatory cells are attracted to the follicle material and the skin inflammation process starts. The follicle would try its best to repair itself by adding and shedding more keratin but it has an adverse effect. This increases the content of the follicle itself. Here things take a turn for the worst and the pressure starts to build up which eventually causes the follicle to burst. This results in further damage done by a wider area of inflammation. At this point there would be red areas on the skin called the pimples.

  • Whiteheads. These are pimples that stay under the surface of the skin. Here the sebum and bacteria stay below the skin surface.

  • Blackheads. Here the trapped material goes through a partially open pore and then turns black or brown due to the melanin that oxidizes. The black color is not from dirt.

  • Papules. These are small pink bumps that can be tender.

  • Pustules. These pimples are red at the bottom and have pus on top.

  • Nodules. These are large, painful, solid pimples that are deep in the skin.

  • Cysts. These are deep, painful, pus-filled pimples and they can cause scars.

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