Acne is the most common skin disorder. It is a chronic inflammatory disease of the sebaceous hair follicles. Each follicle contains a fine hair and many sebaceous glands (the skin’s oil glands).
Under normal circumstances, sebum, the oily substance made by the sebaceous glands, travels up the hair follicle and out to the skin’s surface. However, with acne, sebum is trapped within the follicle and skin bacteria multiply within the clogged pores. Acne develops on those areas of the skin where sebaceous glands are most numerous: the face, scalp, neck, chest, back, and upper arms and shoulders.

How common is acne?

Approximately 17 million people in the U.S. have acne. Nearly 85% of people between the ages of 12 to 24 develop acne. While both men and women are affected by acne, young men are more likely to suffer the effects of acne for longer periods of time because testosterone tends to make acne worse.

Causes of acne

The exact causes of acne are unknown, but it is believed that it can result from several factors, primarily, an increase in hormones called androgens, which both males and females have. Increases in androgens cause your oil glands to enlarge and produce more oil. This oil can also change into a thick white substance called sebum. An increased oil production clogs your pores with oil and sebum that can breakdown the cellular walls in your pores, which causes bacteria to grow and pimples to develop.

Some researchers also believe that your chances of developing acne can be greatly influenced by genetics. The use of certain drugs containing androgens and lithium are known to cause acne. The use of greasy cosmetics can also lead to acne because they plug your cell follicles and promote bacterial growth.

Other skin conditions

There are few other skin conditions that looks like acne, but are actually other skin conditions. One common skin condition is called Rosacea. It is characterized by pimples along the middle part of the face with redness, flushing, and superficial blood vessels. It generally affects people in their 30’s, 40’s or up. It is best to consult a dermatologist if you think you have a case of rosacea.

What can worsen acne?

  • menstrual cycle–acne often worsens premenstrually or mid-cycle.
  • prescription medications, such as certain birth control pills, steroids, and lithium.
  • Being overweight–increased insulin production can signal the body to release extra male hormones, called androgens, which are involved in pimple formation. The list of birth control pills with that may promote acne can be found here.
  • stress.
  • pore-clogging (comedogenic) cosmetics, sunscreens, moisturizers, greases, and oils.
  • adolescence
  • poor diet: excessive sugar, trans fats, fried, salt, and processed foods. Insufficient intake of water, healthy oils, fruit and vegetables, and fiber.
  • excessive intake of foods such as chocolate, caffeine, carbonated beverages, milk products, and seafood and other iodine-rich foods.
  • Tumors in the adrenal glands, polycystic ovarian syndrome (especially when adult acne occurs with irregular menstrual periods), and other health conditions can cause acne. Examination by your family physician is recommended to rule out these conditions.

When should you start treating acne?

Everyone gets some sort of acne from time to time, and the severity is also unique from one to another. Whether it is from mild acne to severe breakout, the decision is yours when it comes to when and how to treat your symptoms. Few good general rules to follow are:

  • Be gentle to your skin
  • Wash face twice daily, more can strip your skin of it’s natural oils
  • Treat affected areas with medicated products
  • Use a moisturizer suitable for your skin type
  • Use a sunscreen with at least spf 15 for daytime

How can I care for a skin with acne?

  • When washing your skin, you should use a mild cleanser once in the morning and once at night. Some people tend to scrub their skin to stop outbreaks, but scrubbing can make your skin worse. Remember that it is important that you thoroughly rinse your skin after washing it. Using an astringent is only recommended when you have oily skin, and even then the astringent should only be applied to oily spots. Dermatologists also recommend that you wash your hair regularly if it is oily, because the oil can get on your forehead and face, and lead to breakouts.
  • Avoid excessive touching of your face. If you squeeze or pop your blemishes, you run the risk of developing scars because dirt on your hands can infect your acne, and in some cases, squeezing the spot may only spread the bacteria even further.
  • Use cosmetics without oil, including hair care products. Men who shave should do so carefully, as to avoid nicking their blemishes.

Home Remedies for Acne

Conventional treatments for acne are usually quite successful. They can include cleansing agents and lotions made with benzoyl peroxide, gels or creams made modified forms of vitamin A, and antibiotics applied to the skin or taken orally. The risk of scarring is an important factor when considering the type of treatment.

Diet

A diet based on whole, unprocessed foods may benefit people with acne. Try to eat at least five servings of vegetables per day and at least one serving of fruit per day.

Avoid eating refined sugar. Fried foods and trans fats such as milk, milk products, margarine, shortening, and other hydrogenated vegetable oils should be eliminated.

Foods containing healthy omega-3 oils such as ground flaxseeds and sardines should be increased. Some people find that chocolate, caffeine, carbonated beverages, iodized salt, shellfish, wheat and/or milk products aggravate acne.

Regular bowel movements are important. Drink at least 8 glasses of day of water. Increase fiber intake. In addition to eating fresh vegetables and fruit, choose whole grains. Some people may benefit from a one- to four-week liver detox diet based on fresh vegetables and fruit.

Vitamins & Nutritional Supplements

  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A may help to reduce sebum production. However, high doses of vitamin A can carry a risk of decreased bone density, birth defects, headache, and muscle and joint pain. Like the modified vitamin A prescription drugs, vitamin A can cause birth defects. Sexually active women of childbearing age should not take more than 5,000 IU per day unless they are under the guidance of a professional and are using at least two reliable forms of birth control. Vitamin A supplementation may not be necessary if there is adequate intake of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and zinc, all necessary for vitamin A formation. Decreasing unhealthy fats such as margarine, hydrogenated oils, processed foods, and other sources of transfats can also improve absorption.
  • Zinc: Zinc, especially in the form of zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate, can help prevent acne. Zinc helps heal blemishes, reduces inflammation, and reduces androgenic hormonal effects on the skin. Begin by increasing food sources of zinc. Two studies comparing zinc to the antibiotic tetracycline found zinc to be as effective as tetracycline. Another study found a mild yet definite effect of zinc.
  • Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 may help premenstrual or mid-cycle acne. This vitamin is essential for the proper metabolism of steroid hormones and can reduce the sensitivity of skin to the effects of testosterone.

Herbs

A herbal blend that can help with acne consists of equal parts of the herbal extracts of sarsaparilla, yellow dock, burdock, and cleavers. These herbs are believed to be potent blood and lymph cleansers. Half a teaspoon per day of this blend can be taken three times per day combined with a healthy diet.
Tea tree oil applied to acne lesions may help to eliminate bacteria and reduce inflammation.
And always remember:

“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”
Chinese Proverb.

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