Understanding the Cause of Acne

By: Riley Hendersen

Although acne is the most common modern skin disorder, reportedly affecting seventeen million people in the United States alone, finding the cause of acne has not yet proven to be a very simple task.

The sebaceous glands, known as oil glands, are at the root of the cause of acne. A pilosebaceous unit (PSU's) holds a sebaceous gland within, which is directly linked to a hair follicle. PSU's are located throughout the majority of the body but are more prominent on the back of the body, the chest, and the face. The sebaceous gland will produce an oil type material which travels up to the skin's surface through an opening in the skin called a pore.

With exposure to dirt and pollutants, the pores can become blocked and stop the sebaceous gland from releasing the oil onto the skin. Subsequently, bacteria begin to build up behind the blocked poor. This bacteria growth causes the skin to become irritated, heated, swollen, and red. Pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads are then produced. This is the underlying cause of acne.

Many several different factors contribute to the cause of acne. Some factors work alone and some work in conjunction with each other to produce acne. In some cases, the cause of acne can stem from male sex hormone levels which increase during puberty and cause an increase in oil production within an individual's skin. Hormone levels also change during a women's menstrual cycle and during pregnancy which can subsequently change the skin's appearance.

Genetics, family history, newly introduced medications, oily soaps, lotions, and makeup can contribute to the cause of acne. Sensitive skin can also become more irritated during periods of increased stress or when the skin is exposed to pollutants within the environment. Skin can also become irritated during hard washing, scrubbing, or excessive handling.

Contrary to popular belief, a person's diet has little to do with the cause of acne. Researchers have found little scientific proof to show that eating fried foods, chocolates, or nuts can lead to an acne outbreak.

Once the individual's cause of acne is understood and discussed with a doctor or dermatologist, a plan of action can be implemented to break the cycle of acne and eliminate the root of the problem. A dermatologist may recommend over-the-counter-acne medication, a prescription strength medication, or a combination of both. In some cases, a dermatologist may also recommend hormone therapies.

A healthy skin care regime will also help control current acne outbreaks and prevent further problems. Washing gently with an oil-free skin cleanser and using water-based cosmetics will help minimize the production of excess oils within the skin, which is the leading cause of acne. If the face is dry, a moisturizer for acne prone skin should be recommended by a dermatologist. Individuals should avoid applying greasy products such as Vaseline and cocoa butter to the face. Additionally, because hair follicles tend to trap oil within the hairline, only an oil-free shampoo should be used.

Presenting daily routines and habits, as well as family history and genetics to a dermatologist can lead to understanding the cause of acne. Once the cause of acne is clearly understood, determining the appropriate course of treatment can lead to beautiful and healthy.

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