Skin breakouts and acne are not just for the young ones. Thanks to all the TV ads of fretting teenagers over zits for that. Acne is a condition that affects an estimated 60 million people in the US alone. It is most noted to happen during puberty but it can occur at any age.
Acne is an irritating, skin condition characterized by different kinds of bumps which can manifest in the face, chest and back and sometimes, in the neck and upper arms. It cannot be cured, but it can definitely be treated and managed. And, as always, knowing what the cause is means winning half the battle.
What causes these annoying bumps? Our skin is covered with tiny holes called hair follicles, or pores which contain sebaceous glands (or the oil glands) that make sebum, an oil that moistens our hair and skin. Most of the time the glands make just enough sebum, but when there’s too much of it, our pores can get clogged up which causes those nasty and unsightly bumps. Certain hormones have an effect on our bodies’ production of oil. Androgens, a hormone present in both men and women but more common in men, enlarge the sebaceous glands and can cause an increase in the sebum production.
There had been popular myths about the cause of acne and it’s time we have them clarified:
Myth: Only teenagers can have acne.
Fact: Not true. Babies, rarely though, can be born with acne and some people only get acne for the first time after they’ve reached adulthood. Acne can affect women until their menopause years. Five percent of women of 40 years of age have acne; but only 1% of men in that age group. One of the reasons why acne is associated with puberty is because, androgens, one of the hormones contributing to massive sebum production, surge at puberty.
Myth: Fatty foods, chocolates and nuts can cause and affect acne.
Fact: It has always been believed that eating fatty foods, chocolates and nuts will cause or worsen acne, but studies haven’t proven it yet. If you find that certain foods have a bad influence on your skin, then you might be having an allergic reaction to them.
Myth: Acne is caused by uncleanliness and poor hygiene.
Fact: Acne is not alone caused by too much dirt on the skin or on the pores . Dirt though, can worsen these blemishes and bumps. Bacteria may penetrate an open bump and may further cause infection. Too much cleaning, though, and too much scrubbing may actually worsen acne because the skin may dry up and can cause more flare ups.
Myth: Acne is caused by lack of sleep .
Fact: It is true. Not getting enough sleep can trigger a response from your adrenal glands that causes hormonal imbalance and can lead to overproduction of sebum that can clog the pores. Also, when you don’t get enough sleep, you feel tired. And when you feel tired, you probably rely on caffeine to pick you up. Too much caffeine will have the same effect on the adrenal glands.
Myth: Acne is caused by stress.
Fact: Researchers are still investigating whether stress causes acne or just worsens it. What they know, though, is – when stressed, the body copes by producing stress hormones that can throw off your equilibrium. The amount oil your body produces increases, which can clog the pores and cause breakouts.
Myth: Sex and masturbation can lead to acne
Fact: Not true. The sex hormone testosterone is a major cause of acne, but whether or not you engage in any sexual act has no effect on acne and definitely doesn’t cause it.
Some may say that acne is only a cosmetic disease and that there is nothing serious about it. It is, but it can affect your mood and self esteem. It can make you feel self conscious when you are in public gathering and you may start shunning socializing. It may make you feel hopeless and depressed. Fortunately, acne is a common problem and there are some ways you can overcome it. You can’t control your hormones and how your body reacts to stress and you won’t always be able to catch 8 hours of sleep, but you can help your body deal with it. Here’s how:
1. Try not to touch your face frequently to avoid transfer of dirt and bacteria from your hands to your face. Don’t let your hair hang loose to your face or back as it may also transfer dirt and bacteria.
2. To help prevent oil build up, especially in the facial zone, wash up twice a day at the most. Know your skin type so you will know which product is suitable for you. If you have oily skin, look for products with minimal oil or are oil-free. Look for non-comedogenic labels to avoid products that clog the pores.
3. Don’t pick, squeeze or pop pimples. If needed, go to a professional skin care clinic with trained aestheticians. You can be assured that they are using reputable skin care products and that their equipments are sanitized.
4. Know when to see a doctor. Acne that does not improve with over-the-counter medicines and has developed some scarring should be evaluated by a doctor. Women with acne who develop facial hair or have irregular periods should also consult their doctors. It is uncommon, but if the acne is accompanied by fevers and severe swelling, medical attention may be needed as these may be signs of serious skin infection.