Acne is a very common skin condition affecting more than 90% of all teenagers, nearly 50% of all adult women and 25% of all adults. Both males and females of all nationalities are affected by acne, making it one of the most widespread conditions in the world.
How breakouts happen
From the moment we are born, our skin begins a lifelong process of shedding dead cells and producing oil. This shedding process is affected by our hormone balance, which fluctuates throughout our life. Clogged pores and pimples (i.e. acne) arise when these natural processes are disrupted by a range of factors.
All acne begins with one basic lesion: the Comedo, an enlarged hair follicle plugged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. Invisible to the naked eye, the Comedo lurks beneath the surface of your skin waiting for the right conditions to grow into an inflamed lesion.
As the skin produces more oil, bacteria flourish within the swollen follicle. The surrounding skin becomes increasingly inflamed as white blood cells fight against the intruding bacteria. The result is a pimple.
Acne comes in many forms
Whiteheads vs. Blackheads. Papules vs Pustules. Why learn all these names when all you really want is clear skin? The best way to fight back is by arming yourself with knowledge. Do you think you just get breakouts, but don’t have “acne”? Unfortunately, we have to say, “think again.” Whether you suffer from breakouts associated with your monthly menstrual cycles, blackheads on your nose, pimples on your chin, a full face of acne or embarrassing pimples on your back or chest, it’s all acne in one form or another.
Here is a basic overview of the different kinds of acne.
What are Whiteheads?
No one on TV or in the movies seem to have blemishes, ever. Well that’s the magic of Hollywood. The fact is, many people get breakouts and whiteheads are one of the most common types. Unfortunately, it’s just part of how your skin works. When a lot of dead skin cells collect on your skin, they “stick” together and create a plug. When this plug forms it starts trapping oil and bacteria in the hair follicle below the skin’s surface. This is known as a closed comedo, or a whitehead. The white debris you see above the skin's surface is composed of trapped oil and dead white blood cells.
What are Blackheads?
You know the story too well. Everyone around you seems to have flawless skin – but you have a T-zone full of ugly blackheads. Why are you the only one who seems to get them? Well, guess what: many people get blemishes, especially blackheads. They are a common result of your skin’s natural processes. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to like them. If the plug enlarges and widens the pore, it’s called an open comedo, or a blackhead. Blackheads are not caused by trapped dirt, even though that’s what they look like, so you can’t wash them away. The black or gray colour comes from a buildup of melanin (the dark pigment of your skin) and oxidised oil.
What are Papules?
Papules are small, firm cone-shaped bumps that are pink in colour. It’s basically a fancy name for an inflamed whitehead. That’s why they’re tender to touch unlike other forms of acne. Not to be gross, but they contain no pus. Since they don’t contain pus you should never pop or poke them. If you do you might seriously irritate your skin and aggravate your existing pimples – and possibly end up with a permanent scar – with zero effect on the papules themselves.
What are Pustules?
These lesions have a yellow or white center with a red base. Pustules form when a plug deep inside a pore traps oil and bacteria, attracting white blood cells to fight the infection. The greater the inflammation, the redder and larger the pustule. Pus is simply the collection of dead white blood cells.
What is Back Acne?
While “bacne” isn’t a word you’ll find in the dictionary, if you’ve got blemishes and breakouts on your back then you know the term. It refers to back acne, those annoying and embarrassing breakouts on your back. Back acne usually first appears during puberty and is often outgrown by your early twenties, but can unfortunately persist beyond those years. Pimples and blemishes can strike anywhere on the body, so a good cleanser is important to help cleanse the skin of impurities that clog pores and cause breakouts.