Male or female, adolescent to adult, most of us will experience acne at one time or another! Acne Vulgaris is the medical term for acne and with around 80% of us between the ages of 11-30 years old being affected it’s easy to see why this is a hot topic.
So what is acne?
Acne is a chronic skin condition whereby microscopic hair follicles and sebaceous glands become blocked or inflamed resulting in non-inflammatory/inflammatory lesions or a combination of the two. These are more commonly referred to as blackheads, whiteheads, papule, pustules and so on. Acne predominantly affects the face (99% of people) but is also common on the back (60%) and chest (15%). And don’t think that once you’ve reached adulthood with your clear blemish free skin that you’re exempt, acne can continue or even start well into adulthood with around one in ten sufferers over the age of 25!
Your hormones have a lot to answer for in this case I’m afraid, which explains the flare up of symptoms during puberty and pregnancy, but more importantly to you men, Male hormones known as androgens are a staggering 10 times higher in males than females which means that skin thickness increases by up to 30%, combine that with twice the production of sebum (skin oil) than your female counterpart and there you have it an increase on average of severe acne cases, sorry guys!
Other causes may include:
Shaving, remember irritation=acne and weight gain / bulking at the gym.
But enough of the facts and figures, now onto the important part to help you manage and treat this often embarrassing condition.
Lets start by Dispelling some myths
“Acne is caused by having dirty skin and poor hygiene”
The vast majority of factors contributing to acne are happening beneath as apposed to on the skin! Therefore the cleanliness of the skin has little bearing, in fact washing the skin more than twice daily can cause irritation and exacerbate the condition, so wash gently with mild soap or cleanser in lukewarm water to avoid further irritation.
“Acne is caused by poor diet”
There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that certain foods cause acne. Having said that, we all know the importance of a healthy balanced diet, having an awareness of your dietary intake in relation to your acne outbreaks may help you identify a potential intolerance.
“Squeezing spots is the best was to get rid of them”
We’ve all been there, and there is not many of us that know when to stop so ideally leave them be, but if you must then remember to only attempt popping if a white or yellow centre is present, make sure all hands and surfaces are clean maybe when you are fresh out of the shower, wrap toilet tissue around both index fingers and gently squeeze, if it doesn’t pop or clear fluid or blood appears stop and always remember ‘pop responsibly but never pick!’ scarring is always a potential worry and excess squeezing and picking is a big NO NO.
“Nothing can be done to treat acne”
There are many effective treatments available to treat this skin condition which depend on the severity of the acne and previous treatments tried, but please be aware that there may not be any quick fix solutions and even the strongest of oral medications can take several months to achieve good results and may not be without side-effects. Always seek advice from an experienced practitioner whether that be your GP, Dermatologist or aesthetic nurse practitioner whom will be able to guide and treat you with good quality evidence based treatments.
One treatment method I have personally had great results with is the Neostrata chemical peel system, this is a chemical exfoliation rather than mechanical such as scrubbing which can be irritating, remember irritation = acne.
This particular client suffered severe full back acne characterised by inflammatory papules, pustules, scarring and a history of failed or un-tolerated medication. By using a combination of monthly Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) chemical peels to encourage cell turnover and reduce oiliness, with a daily regime of topical cleansers and gels, we were able to achieve great results over a six month period.
One AHA that I find particularly important in the treatment of acne is Mandelic Acid, found naturally in almonds Mandelic Acid has an antibacterial benefit that is favourable in the management of acne. Additionally a gentle daily cleanser containing 0.3% Triclosan, a broad spectrum antibacterial which reaches deep into the pores to dissolve impurities and help reduce problem causing bacteria is a must!
Neostrata chemical peels are a great place to start! Low cost, non-invasive with none to minimal downtime they are a big favourite of mine.
Whether you have mild or severe acne, tried numerous treatments or none, my hope is that this article has given you enough knowledge and eradicated some common acne misconceptions to enable all sufferers to seek any help you may need. The link between acne and psychological distress and impact is too great to ignore, with such effective and varied treatment methods available there is no reason to wait, prompt diagnosis and treatment will result in amazing results I’m sure.