What causes acne and what can be done to treat it?
Like most common medical problems, acne is surrounded by its share of myths.
Although acne can be aggravated by poor personal hygiene or by eating too many sweets, acne is a hormonal problem.
It develops when the sebaceous follicles — which are concentrated mostly in the skin of the face, neck and shoulders — begin producing too much oil. This excessive oil production is brought on when the levels of certain hormones in the blood increase.
These changes also trigger the sexual development that takes place during adolescence.
Oil is not the only culprit.
At the same time, there is overproduction of the skin cells that line the follicle. These excess skin cells, along with the excess oil, form a sort of paste which clots the follicle and forms a pimple.
Whiteheads are formed when the follicle opening is tight; blackheads form when the opening is large enough for oil and cells to push up to the surface.
Blackheads are dark in color not because of dirt but rather because they are made up of pigment producing cells.
Doctors classify acne as either noninflammatory or inflammatory. Noninflammatory acne, characterized by blackheads, whiteheads and perhaps an occasional red lesion — may be cleared up with over-the-counter remedies. Sulfur, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are good for drying the skin.
However, these chemicals can irritate the skin, so it takes a bit of trial-and-error to find the right product.
An exfoliant can also be helpful.
These drugs work by opening the follicles so that the excess oil can flow out.
For severe cases, such as inflammatory acne, you should seek our care.
There are several prescription medications that are highly effective in clearing up severe cases of acne, and we can give you information about them.
I want to stress that teenagers should not be blamed for having acne.
Acne is a biological condition that is not caused just by bad hygiene or improper diet. If you mislead your child to believe these myths, you may create an unhealthy situation of self-blame, while wasting time that you could spend treating the problem.