Pimples, blackheads, blemishes. Acne comes in many names. It often is regarded as a puberty process that affects teenagers. The fact is acne is not just a teenage problem. I’ve seen a fair share of acne cases in my practice affecting those out of puberty. It can affect anyone at any age. Yes, people can get acne problems at almost any age. Even the newborn can have acne. Around 20% of newborns develop a type of acne called neonatal acne.
What is Acne?
Acne is a disease of the pilosebaceous unit of the skin. It is a condition where spots and bumps appear on the skin’s surface. The intensity and duration vary for each individual. This problem occurs when oil and dead skin cells obstruct the natural flow of sebum through the skin’s pores. Secondary infection and inflammation of these clogged pores lead to a more severe condition, such as pustular acne, nodular acne, or nodular cystic acne.
Who gets acne?
Acne can affect both males and females. Although commonly seen among teenagers, many in their 30’s or even 40 are still troubled by it.
Westernized society (related to westernized lifestyle) is at higher risk of acquiring acne. It may be due to the consumption of cow’s milk and high-glycemic (High carbohydrate/sugar) food. A study had shown that women who drank two or more glasses of skim milk per day were 44% more likely to have acne than other women who had participated in this study. The relationship between diet and acne was also researched by a group of Malaysian doctors back in 2012. In their study they concluded that high glycemic loaded diet and frequencies of milk and ice cream intake were positively associated with acne.
Certain cosmetic and skincare products can cause acne. Acne Cosmetica is the term given to descript acne caused by cosmetic products. Women who wear occlusive products such as liquid foundation, BB cream, CC cream, and oily skincare products can often get acne cosmetica. In recent years, I have also witnessed a rise in patients who suffered severe acneiform eruptions after trying certain skincare brands. Whether this is due to certain ingredients within certain products (especially those which may contain prohibited medication) is unclear. Check out my post on Beware of whitening creams to understand more about which ingredients in cosmetic creams are linked to the acne problem.
Some women may also experience worsening of their acne during their menses. A study shows that 65% of women reported worsening their acne during menses. Hormonal fluctuations are the cause of this inconvenience. Doctors believe that a drop in estrogen and progesterone in the body just before the menstrual cycle begins causes period acne. This change leads to increased oil/sebum production by the sebaceous glands resulting in clogged pores and acne eruptions.
Those with acne would know that stress worsens their acne. Although stress may not cause acne, studies did suggest that it can intensify the severity of existing acne. Sleep deprivation (Not getting enough sleep) is considered a form of stress to the body, which may result in acne eruptions.
Should acne be taken seriously?
YES, we should treat acne problems seriously. The disease may be minor, with only a few clogged pores or bumps, or it may occur as high inflammatory nodulocystic acne. No one can predict who will develop which.
My general rule is acne that results in scars should be taken seriously and treated as soon as possible. With modern dermatology, and aesthetic medications and treatments, you do not have to live with acne or scars. Today, the treatment of virtually every case of acne is successful. A doctor should aim to prevent acne scars as much as possible.
My advice those living with acne is to get it treated early before it form scars.