While some would associate acne with young teenagers, many adults often get breakouts as well. Acne in adolescence is usually brought on by hormonal changes in the body, as well as menstruation in women. Adult acne is most often confined to the face, where as teenage acne can be spread to the back, face and chest.
No matter what age, the cause of acne is the same. The cycle of a blemish can actually start 2-3 weeks before it makes an appearance on the skin. Pores, tiny holes on the skin, contain sebaceous glands that produce oil called sebum. This oil works on the skin to keep it moist and elastic.
Since skin is constantly renewing itself, the body sloughs off dead skin to make way for new, fresh skin. Not all skin types allow for a natural exfoliation to occur, and when it does not, dead skin cells stick to the body, trapping oil and bacteria within the pores, or hair follicles.
The oil trapped in the pore gets clogged, much the same way the kitchen pipe will, while the body continues to create natural oils, creating a back-up that causes a pore to swell. The body then uses white blood cells to attack the pore, causing it to inflame and rise to the surface of the skin.
There are two basic types of acne: Non-Inflammatory and Inflammatory. When a blemish is considered Non-Inflammatory, it is described as either a whitehead or blackhead. Whiteheads are plugged follicles or pores that are under the surface of the skin and can look like small, white bumps. Blackheads occur when the pore is plugged and pushed through the skin’s surface, resulting in a dark bump. Blackheads are often thought of as dirt within the pore, but it is in fact a buildup of the skin’s dark pigmentation, called melanin.
Inflammatory acne can occur in forms ranging from slight bumps to large, inflamed cysts. Papules, the slightest form of inflammatory acne, look like small pink bumps on the skin’s surface. This type of acne is most common, and often the most mild. Pustules are similar to papules because they are small and round, but different because you are able to see the buildup of pus. These blemishes do not contain a great deal of bacteria, and the irritation is often caused by the sebum.
The most painful type of blemish is the nodule, or cyst. These are large, pus-filled lesions that start deep within the skin. Cysts can often start months in advance and are caused by the lesions being trapped, causing the pus to harden. This type of acne produces the most scars, and is considered to be most severe.
Acne is not something that can really be controlled based on what is eaten — or cleansing habits. Different skin types react with oils and exfoliation in a variety of ways, causing varying degrees of acne. Periodic flare-ups of acne within adolescence or adulthood can be linked to stress, or exertion of the body, as well as a rise in hormone levels. While acne might not be curable, there is most often a way to help reduce symptoms.