Acne manifests itself as annoying spots, sometimes only a few blackheads, but often skin patches covered with whiteheads, red papules and pustules. All these manifestations arise from blockage or inflammation of hair follicles. Irrespective of its severity, acne chews on one’s self-confidence. In fact, its psychological impact may be so significant that it may affect one’s quality of life and even one’s employment opportunities.
What causes acne? Acne is caused by hormonal stimulation of the oil glands, thickening of the skin and accumulation of dead cells inside the hair follicle. The excess oil and dead cells become nutrients for normal skin bacteria, raising their numbers abnormally high. These excess bacteria release enzymes that cause inflammation and puss. The latter become nutrients for other (normal) skin bacteria, also raising their numbers to unhealthy levels.
The vicious cycle has begun: more oil and dead cells, more enzymes, more puss, more bacteria… and the problem gets worse fast. Although acne is caused by hormonal imbalances, there are a number of external triggers that may lead to acne.
Types of acne Blackheads and whiteheads are non-inflamed acne, called comedones. Papules are red bumps, whereas pustules are small tender cysts. Papules and pustules are inflamed acne.
A blackhead or a whitehead is a plug of oil and sloughed-off cells inside the hair follicle. With whiteheads, the plug is covered with skin and it has a whitish color. With blackheads, the plug is not covered by skin and as a result of its contact with the air it oxidizes and hence becomes black. Inflammation and swelling associated with papules and pustules indicate the presence of bacterial infection(s).
How many people suffer from acne? The prevalence of acne under teenagers varies between 87% and 94%. A small number of people retain this undesirable problem after puberty and a few have it before puberty! Being such a common problem, it is surprising that there are still some myths about acne.
THE MOST COMMON MYTHS ABOUT ACNE
Myth: Acne is caused by environmental factors, dietary intake or personal hygiene.
Truth: Acne is caused by a genetic predisposition. If a poor exercise programme or facial routine and junk food were causes of acne, many grownups would suffer from severe acne after each winter. However, one cannot simply let go of all that self-discipline because if hormones are not in good balance, poor habits may exacerbate the acne problem!
Myth: The perfect facial cleanser will clear acne. Truth: Because poor personal care is
not the cause of acne, improved personal care is not the solution either. In fact,
excessive cleansing and scrubbing can compromise the skin's protective barrier.
Irritated skin is more prone to allergic reactions than healthy skin and some allergic reactions
cause papules. Very dry skin is easily sensitized by chemicals and environmental
factors. It is therefore important NOT to strip the skin from all its natural moisture.
EXTERNAL TRIGGERS OF ACNE
The most common external triggers include re-contamination, self-induced irritation, drugs and topical products.
Because acne often includes a bacterial infection, opportunities for re-contamination have to be minimized.
Therefore: wear a clean shirt daily, change pillow cases regularly and touch the skin only with clean hands.
Compulsive scratching or harsh treatment of the skin may also increase the severity of acne. Drugs and topical products can cause eruption of acne.
Common drugs include steroids and high doses of vitamin B. It is important to carefully read the insert for potential dermatitis side effects when using any medication. Some of the most common ingredients in cosmetic products that may cause acne eruption are natural oils such as olive oil and sweet almond oil. Take note that these are not problematic drugs or ingredients, but only for individuals affected by acne.
WRONG USAGE OF ANTI-ACNE PRODUCTS
Bodily processes take time. A fractured bone takes approximately 45 days to heal… see?... it takes time. Some are slightly faster and some are slow:
Try and go to the restroom directly after 3 cups of coffee (before church)…
nothing! Only after the body has followed its own pace, it will let you know
its time - usually half-way through the sermon!
Food tends to be slow - one excessive meal will luckily not fatten you up overnight, but consistent overeating will most definitely do that. Just try it for a month and see… The same is true for acne. With proper treatment, an acne-skin can become beautiful – in about 6 weeks.
It will not happen overnight irrespective of how much one squishes, scrubs, paid for the products or how much product one applies. The life-time of a single pimple is a few days. With proper care one can reduce the severity and possibly also the duration of the pimple. Both over-usage and under-usage of anti-acne products increase the problem.
Common mistakes when treating acne + pimples:
• Excessive cleansing and scrubbing.
• Squishing and popping pimples: increase the risk of re-contamination and scarring.
• Over-usage of anti-acne products: leads to increased sensitivity and dryness of the skin.
• Under-usage of anti-acne products causes individuals to move from one product to the next without much success.
• Impatience with treatment: causing individuals interchange between products or stop the treatment altogether.
Using too many different products creates side-effects that interfere with the products’ normal functioning.
• Stopping the use of anti-acne products once the skin seems clear. Don’t! Treatment should continue for several months to completely clear up underlying bacterial infection and probably until hormones have completely stabilized (18+ years).
TREATMENT OF ACNE
Products that promote proper shedding of the epidermis and reduce the excess oil are most beneficial to treating
blackheads and whiteheads. Inflamed acne is always an indication of bacterial infection and needs to be treated with
anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial products. See the relevant text boxes below for treatment. If acne becomes
worse, it is likely due to uncontrolled bacterial infection under the upper layers of the skin. In this case, it may be
necessary to use oral antibiotics or even stronger dermatological medicine. Avoid permanent psychological scarring
by seeing a doctor/dermatologist.
Important treatments that contribute to a beautiful skin -
• Drink plenty of water – flushing the system eliminates toxins that may worsen the problem.
• Steam regularly – this is a cheap and very effective way to control acne breakouts.
• Avoid dry and sensitive skin by using a moisturiser that does not promote acne.
Caring for blackheads and whiteheads:
• Cleanse dirt and reduce excess oil. (Foaming Cleanser of/or Facial Wash Regular / 2x daily)
• Steam twice a week after cleansing. Purify the pores. (Facial Mask /1x weekly)
• Remove dead cells. (Refining Scrub /1x weekly)
• Restore moisture balance. (Vanishing Cream of/or Whole-leaf Gel /after cleansing)
• Promote hormonal balance. (Radical Image /2x daily)
Caring for infected acne:
• Cleanse dirt and reduce excess oil and bacteria. (Facial Wash Bitter /2x daily)
• Steam every second day after cleansing.
• Remove dead cells./ (Refining Scrub /1x every 10-14 days but not on irritated skin.
• Reduce bacterial infestation, inflammation and swelling. (Super Aloe Gel and/en Bitter Aloe Gel).
• Restore moisture balance. (Vanishing Cream or/of Whole-leaf Gel /after cleansing.)
• Promote hormonal balance and reduce infection.
(Radical Image /2x daily Val-u-Life /1x daily, Fabulous Fibre Bitter /½-1x daily)
Article from Aloe Ferox Newsletter 4/2012