Acne is the most common skin condition affecting about 50 million Americans annually, of all ethnicities. It affects 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 and over 20% of adult women in their 30’s, 40’s and sometimes in their 50’s.
Acne Vulgaris is the most common form of acne. Acne occurs most often on the face, neck, back and shoulders, and can result in skin discoloration and scarring in the worst cases. It affects quality of life, self-esteem, and mood. Studies report that severe acne can cause significant physical and psychological problems including increasing the risk of depression. While acne is not a permanent condition, it can be disfiguring. Scarring is a permanent complication of acne vulgaris.
What is acne?
Acne is a complex inflammatory skin condition that causes the formation of papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts, commonly known as pimples. It develops in the hair follicles in the skin pores on the face, chest, back and neck.
Oil glands in the skin’s hair follicles secrete sebum, a substance that lubricates the skin. It carries dead skin cells in the pores to the surface and usually they are sloughed off. But when the body makes a lot of sebum it traps the dead skin cells inside the pores. This creates sebaceous plugs called comedomes. They are noninflammatory and appear as whiteheads and blackheads. When you see facial products labels that say they are noncomedogenic it means they will not contribute to the formation of pimples.
When clogged pores are invaded by bacteria called P. acnes, it causes inflammation, redness, swelling, and hyperpigmentation. If the infection goes deeper into the skin, it creates nodules and cysts.
What causes acne?
Acne is caused by a combination of factors including hormones, inflammation, abnormal skin cell growth, excessive production of sebum, bacterial overgrowth inside clogged pores, stress, diet, some medications, and a genetic predisposition. Other triggers include high humidity and sweating.
The hormones that cause acne are called androgens, male sex hormones that normally increase in girls and boys during puberty, a monthly menstrual period, pregnancy and around menopause which causes the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more oil. Stress hormones also stimulate oil glands to increase oil production which clogs pores.
How is acne diagnosed?
Your Coastal Skin and Eye Institute clinician will review your medical history and evaluate potential causes including your hormones, family history of acne, medications that can cause acne such as corticosteroids and your age. They will also ask about your stress, your skin care routine, and other risk factors.
They will grade your acne on a scale from mild to severe. Noninflammatory blackheads and whiteheads can usually heal without scarring, but moderate to severe acne can leave scars. Cystic acne is the most severe type causing red, swollen, and painful pimples filled with pus. Cystic acne is the most common cause of acne scarring.
Treatment options are determined based on the severity of your acne and the risk of scarring. The goal of acne is to address the three key factors:
- too much oil in the pores
- a buildup of dead skin cells in the pores, and
- the growth of bacteria in the pores.
How is acne treated?
With any acne, the first rule is not to pick or pop pimples. This damages the skin, spreads bacteria, and worsens acne. The risk of scarring increases. Scars are a sign that the skin has been broken and damaged. Popping pimples leads to infections and the formation of larger lesions. The body works to repair the damage by creating new collagen. The collagen and tissue produced are different than the current texture of the skin. The skin’s texture may change resulting in scars.
All treatment options are focused on reducing oil production, exfoliating dead skin cells, and reducing bacteria. Topical and/or oral medications, as well as laser and light treatments can help achieve these goals. During your appointment your Clinician will develop a treatment plan based on your needs. You will also learn how to best care for your skin to prevent clogged and infected pores.
Are you interested in skin free from acne and blemishes? Do you live in the San Diego, CA area? Are you ready to work with a variety of Board-certified professionals? If this sounds like you, we encourage you to contact Coastal Skin and Eye Institute. The practice is conveniently located in Suite 206 at 5550 Carmel Mountain Road and can be reached by phone at (858) 943-2540.