Deeper Scars

Dec 12, 2011 | Blog

Acne can affect far more than its victim’s faces

Almost all of us have had the occasional pimple during the teen years; acne affects more than 90 per cent of young people. But more adults are also being affected by breakouts and pimples — adult acne. It is estimated that 12 per cent of women and three per cent of men aged 40 and older have acne.

Acne may affect some of us more emotionally and deeply than what is apparent on the skin surface. Our faces define us as individuals and are the presenting feature with which we interact with those around us.

By affecting the face, acne can directly affect self- image by making us look and feel unattractive — which leads to embarrassment, lack of self-confidence and lowered self esteem.

In the teen years, acne can complicate the way young people feel about the way they look and interfere with socialization with peers. The persistence of acne beyond teen years into adulthood leads to frustration of dealing with an ongoing disorder.

Studies have shown that women are more bothered by acne than men and that women with acne are more frustrated with the condition than teenage girls. Beyond these emotional aspects, acne can also have occupational consequences — those affected can have reduced employment opportunities. Chronic and severe acne can also lead to long- term physical problems such as staining and scarring.

Our body contains numerous oil glands which produce oil to moisturize the surface of the skin. Within the depths of each gland, oil is carried to the surface by tubes visible on the surface as pores. The highest density of these glands is located on the face, especially at the nose, forehead and mid-cheeks. The largest oil glands are found on the back and mid-chest. The location and size of oil glands explains in part why acne tends to most commonly affect these sites.

Multiple factors are thought to be important in causing acne, including androgenic hormones leading to pore blockage and increased oil production and the presence and growth of acne bacteria. Pore blockage leads to buildup of oil within the pore (blackheads and whiteheads). As the oil becomes blocked in the pore, bacteria start to grow, leading to inflamed red bumps or “zits” (papules, pustules). Some of these large sacs of oil may rupture, causing large red lumps (nodules).

Acne prevention may be achieved by avoiding aggravating factors which can block pores, such as some thick moisturizer creams, retained sweat or moisture under hats, pads, helmets and damp clothing.

Hair length and grooming products such as conditioners, gels and hairspray may contribute to acne by blocking pores. Damp hair can also contribute to acne if allowed to come into contact with the neck, back, and shoulders for long periods of times.

While diet has not previously been thought to affect acne, this is a field of ongoing research. New studies suggest that milk product avoidance and low glycemic index diet may improve acne in some patients.

Effective treatment for acne starts with education about the nature of the problem, the ability of treatments to control but not cure the condition, appropriate selection of facial cosmetics and the value of treatment and compliance. The selection of acne treatments depends on the severity and impact of the condition. Milder acne may respond to treatment not requiring a prescription. But if your acne is not improving, you are developing scars or if it is affecting you emotionally, seek the attention of your doctor.

Treatment options range from acne cleansers, gels and creams for mild acne, antibiotic or hormonal pills for moderate cases and oral isotretinoin for severe or resistant cases. Supportive treatments to these medication options include acne facials and light treatments. In addition, there is ongoing research on new treatments for acne.

The physical and emotional consequences of acne are significant. Fortunately, effective therapy is available to reduce breakouts, minimize the risk of scars, improve appearance and enhance self-image.