Dec 06

What is Acne?

rp_Back-of-a-woman-200x300.jpgAcne is a common skin condition which most often appears during the teenage years.  Commonly known as pimples, acne usually appears on the face but can also happen on other parts of the body such as the back, the shoulders, neck and chest.  Even though most teenagers experience acne at some point, it is a condition which can also affect adults.  Acne is universal — it affects males and females almost equally and occurs in every race.

The proper name for acne is Acne Vulgaris.  It is characterized by lesions which break out on the skin.  The lesions can be whiteheads, blackheads, or cysts which form because of clogged pores.  It is most commonly seen during puberty because it is at this time that the body produces an abundant supply of an oily substance called sebum.  Sebum is needed to keep the hair and a skin soft and lubricated, but during puberty, the body produces more sebum than is needed.  The excess can clog pores and leave the skin feeling oily.

Another change that occurs during puberty is the excess production of follicle cells.  The dying cells can quickly build up and combine together with sebum to form whiteheads.  This mixture of oil and dead cells creates a breeding ground for bacteria which results in redness and swelling in the afflicted area that are known as pimples.

Acne is an extremely common condition which affects about 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24.  One quarter of these people have acne on other parts of the body besides the face — most commonly the back and neck areas.  40% of acne sufferers seek medical attention because of the severity of their breakouts.

The most common area for pimples to appear is the so-called ‘T zone’ of the face.  This includes the forehead, the nose, and the chin, although acne may also appear on the cheeks and other parts of the face.  The second most common area for acne is the back, followed by the neck, the chest, and the shoulders.

By the time they are in their 20s, most people’s acne has cleared up.  However, it may still persist throughout the adult years in some people.  Some people even experience acne for the first time when they are adults.  Slightly more boys than girls suffer from the condition.

Acne can be a problem for many people because it affects appearance and self image.  Since teenagers are particularly vulnerable concerning their self-image, acne can cause feelings of depression and reduced self-confidence.  It may cause some to withdraw from social interactions and cause feelings of anger and frustration.

Thankfully, there are many modern treatments for acne.  The first line of defence is keeping the skin clean and oil free.  This can be done by gentle washing with soap and water twice a day, particularly after activities which cause perspiration.  There are also a wide variety of medical treatments available for acne, both prescribed and over-the-counter.

Severe acne conditions can be treated by a dermatologist.  The doctor can prescribe ointments which are used directly on the skin as well as drugs like antibiotics which combat the bacteria which causes pimples.  A dermatologist can also give valuable advice about diet and lifestyle changes which may help in combating acne.

Dec 01

Scalp Acne

Just about everyone knows what acne is and that it commonly breaks out on the face, chest, arms and on the back. Acne also appears on other parts of the body as well, but unless you’re someone with acne in one of these ‘other’ areas, you may not have realized this.

If you think about what acne is – a skin condition – it makes sense then that acne can appear almost anywhere on the body. One area in particular that is not often associated with acne is the scalp.

Scalp acne, the mildest form of which is also known as scalp folliculitis, probably occurs more frequently than most people realize. This form of acne is most often triggered during times of high stress. This irritating scalp condition usually develops whenever the scalp becomes oilier than usual, such as when the hair isn’t washed frequently or when hair care products that contain a considerable amount of oil are used.

Scalp acne is very itchy and that makes it difficult for those who have it to leave it alone. In its mildest form, the pustules are small, crusty, and they’re sore. They appear mainly on the upper forehead at the hairline. A person can have just a few pustules or there can be many.

A more severe form of scalp acne called acne necrotica miliaris is characterized by inflamed larger papules with black-colored crusts. This form of acne can leave behind scars that resemble those resulting from Chicken Pox. There is an even more severe form of scalp acne that primarily affects adult African-American men, but can actually affect anybody, regardless of race or sex. This extremely rare condition is a combination of large cysts and smaller pustules and papules that grow to be very large.

Treatment for Scalp Acne

The mild form of scalp acne can be treated the way most other acne is treated. Keep the affected area clean by using a product that contains salicylic acid. Remember though that these products can cause excessive dryness so use only on affected areas. For better control, apply using a cotton ball.

Since oily hair is a contributing factor to scalp acne, using shampoo that is formulated for oily hair and scalp is another good option. Hair care products designed especially to treat seborrhea have also been used successfully. And since many people use more than just shampoo on their hair, it’s a good idea to check the labels on all hair care products and make changes as necessary.

Never attempt to treat the more severe forms of scalp acne without first speaking to a doctor or a dermatologist.

One thing that should not be used to treat scalp acne is any product that contains benzoyl peroxide. The peroxide, when it comes into contact with hair, can change the color of the hair and result in a less-than-desirable look. Those who have chemically-textured their hair (for example those with perms) or color-treated their hair are most prone to hair trouble when benzoyl peroxide comes into contact with hair.