As one of the most common skin diseases in the United States, acne (or Acne Vulgaris as it’s known medically) affects an estimated 40-50 million Americans at one time or another. It can affect men and women of all races and while it is more prevalent in teenagers and young adults, it can also occur later in life. When it does, it is referred to as adult acne.
Acne is a disease involving the oil glands and follicles of the skin. Our skin’s sebaceous glands—the glands which produce our skin’s naturally hydrating sebum or oil—work to help transport dead skin cells to the surface of the skin through canals called follicles. When these follicles become clogged, acne blemishes may form.
Acne—which can include whiteheads, blackheads, and cystic pimples— is observed more often on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders, but it may also appear on other areas of the body.
Types of Acne Blemishes
The more common types of acne blemishes include the following:
- Whiteheads: Pimples which remain under the surface of the skin
- Blackheads: Blemishes that occur when an open follicle becomes clogged and the clog oxidizes and becomes darker in color
- Papules: Small pink bumps that may be sensitive to the touch
- Pustules: Blemishes that are red and filled with white or yellow pus
- Nodules: Blemishes that are large, painful, and solid to the touch which remain deep under the surface of the skin
- Cysts: Deep, painful, pus-filled pimples which may cause scarring.
What Causes Acne?
Acne blemishes can form when pores become clogged with excess oil, dead skin cells that haven’t shed, and bacteria. Clogged pores can occur for a number of different reasons. The more common causes of acne include:
- Hormonal Fluctuations: Hormones can become unbalanced during natural physiological changes like puberty, pregnancy, and prior to your menstrual cycle. During these times, oil glands can kick into overdrive and may cause pores to become clogged.
- Genetics: If your mom or dad suffered with acne at any point during their lives, you may also experience it as well.
- Diet: According to the Mayo Clinic, studies indicate that certain dietary factors may trigger acne.
- Stress: Feeling stressed? It’s believed that stress can make existing acne worse.