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Acne vulgaris, or acne, is a skin condition that causes spots. Acne can vary from mild to severe and usually affects the skin of the face, back and chest.

Acne starts to develop when hair follicles in your skin become blocked with the natural oil produced by your skin (known as sebum) and dead skin cells. Each follicle is connected to a sebaceous gland that lies just underneath the surface of your skin. The sebaceous glands produce sebum to keep your skin soft and supple. Normally, sebum travels up the follicle and out through small holes (pores) on the surface of your skin.

However, if your body produces too much sebum, and dead skin cells get trapped in your pores, a 'spot' will form. This can either be a whitehead or a blackhead.

Symptoms of acne

If you have mild or moderate acne, you may have greasy skin and spots (whiteheads or blackheads) on your face, back and chest. Most spots will not cause any other symptoms. Sometimes, spots that have become inflamed and infected (pustules, nodules and cysts) may be painful.

Complications of acne

Most people have a mild form of acne that usually clears up after their teenage years, but sometimes more severe complications may develop if you have moderate or severe acne.

  • Scarring. Up to one in five people with acne have scarring that is socially noticeable. If you pick and squeeze your spots, you may get 'ice pick' scars. These are initially purple in colour before fading to a whitish colour. Rarely, 'keloid' (lumpy, painful and itchy) scars may develop on your chest and back.
  • Hyperpigmentation (your skin becomes darker in the areas affected by acne). You're more likely to have hyperpigmentation if you have a dark skin tone.
  • Psychological problems. Acne may cause you to have low self-esteem or feel angry about the appearance of your skin, especially if you have scarring.

Causes of acne

A build up of excess dead cell material
This excess build up can block sebaceous glands and hair shafts causing blackheads and congestion leading to inflammation, outbreaks and eruptions.

Poor skin conditioning and incorrect product usage
Some products can form an occlusive barrier over the excretory ducts, these then become impacted and clogged because they can’t function and acne forms again.

Hard scrubbing and over exfoliation can exacerbate the problem by being over stimulating. Many acne products are very stripping and drying and this will make the oil gland accelerate oil production and make the acne even worse.

Hormones
Hormones have the ability to change messages within our body.

An increase in the amount of Androgens that stimulate oil glands can cause acne in both males and females.

Stress
In today’s fast paced society stress is a big contributor to adult acne and many other health issues. Stress increases the body’s cortisol levels and can affect hormones and also suppresses the immune system which affects activity of Langerhans cells in the epidermis of our skin. Langerhans cells live in our skin and defend against micro-organisms and fighting against bacterial infection, which is their fundamental function.

Deficiency of Essential Fatty Acids
Skins with insufficient levels of essential fatty acids, the sebum contains more wax esters making it thicker and this means the oil sludges and doesn’t flow freely.

 

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