What is acne?
Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people, to some extent, usually when they are in their teens and early twenties.
Sometimes, however, 'adult acne' can continue into later years causing distress to our everyday lives.
Acne can vary from relatively mild and superficial blackheads or whiteheads with oily skin, to more severe inflamed spots and cysts that may leave permanent scarring.
About 80% of us have been affected by acne at some time in our lives. Both teenagers and adults can suffer. Some only experience a few spots, others have more severe cases. Acne usually affects the face, and sometimes the back and front of the chest, but can also appear on the lower back, buttocks and thighs.
What causes acne?
There have been many myths over the years about the causes of acne and how to treat it.
It’s mainly due to hormonal changes that cause an over-production of sebum (the oil that the skin produces naturally to keep itself from drying out). When the skin’s pores (openings for hair follicles) become blocked with excess sebum and dead skin cells, oily skin, blocked pores and acne are the result.
It is caused by a combination of hormone stimulus to the acne or sebaceous glands in the skin, which leads to an increased production of oil and a blockage at the opening of the duct which will then be seen as a whitehead or blackhead. In the long term, acne also increases the breakdown of collagen and elastic tissue.
What Makes Acne Worse?
The Sun Exposing scars to the sun can cause them to darken and slow the healing process. Ultraviolet rays stimulate melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), leading to further discolouration. Before heading outdoors, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, with the physical blocker zinc oxide, and reapply every two hours. Did you know the difference between a physical sun block and a chemical sun cream? Physical instantly protects your skin without the need for waiting before it starts to work and doesn't contain chemicals that may increase sensitivity to your skin or block the skin with additives that are not healthy for you or your skin. At Skin Perfection we have physical blocks and sunscreens that do not do this, unlike the chemical sunscreens we are used to buying over the counter or in department stores, causing your acne and redness to worsen.
Picking and Squeezing Scars, which are made mainly of collagen (a protein fibre normally found in the skin's second layer), are the body's way of repairing itself. Acne scars are typically indented because of collagen loss from intense inflammation. Picking leads to further inflammation and injury of the skin, which adds to the skin’s discolouration and scarring. Squeezing or trying to pop a pimple causes pus and bacteria to filter deeper into the skin, resulting in more collagen damage and spread of bacteria causing more spots, then more scars.
Vitamin E You may have heard that applying topical vitamin E to a scar will help it heal faster. But according to a study from researchers at the University of Miami, applying the nutrient directly onto a scar can actually hinder its healing. In the study, vitamin E had no effect (or made matters worse) for 90% of the patients, and 33% who used topical vitamin E developed a contact dermatitis. Vitamin A or derivatives of Vitamin A, actually help better including Vitamin C, which calms any inflammation, protects your skin from free radical damage and helps to lighten any discolouration to the skin.
Getting help with acne
Whatever the cause, and whatever age we are, any signs of acne can have a big effect on how we feel about ourselves. Many sufferers have tried medication prescribed by their GP or dermatologist but if these treatments have been unsuccessful, there is little else the NHS can offer.
If you are self-conscious with having spots and scarring, however mild, please do call us at Skin Perfection. There are many prescription treatments for acne, but generally speaking, acne prone skin will respond well to a specifically-tailored combination of procedures. These include medical skin peels, photo laser treatment, LED light therapy and other rejuvenating skin treatments such as microneedling, which is also suitable for acne scaring once the breakouts have suppressed.
Even without picking, acne lesions, particularly cysts, can lead to scarring because of the intense, collagen-damaging skin inflammation with which they are associated. Acne scarring can be an unsightly reminder of having to deal with that condition. Acne scars develop in areas where former cystic blemish lesions have been present. Acne scars come in three varieties:
- atrophic, which are mostly shallow
- ice pick-shaped, which are narrow and deeper.
People with deeper skin tones may also notice darkening (or hyperpigmentation) within the scars, while people with lighter skin tones may show redness (or erythema) within the scars.
It’s hard not to feel self-conscious if you’ve been left with visible scars but that can change with a little help: today’s cosmetic treatments can now reduce - or in many cases, completely remove - acne scars. See below for treatment options.