This story was updated in January 2019.
Last week, I was excited about my best friend’s wedding and now, ummm...not so much. Ask me why? Because I can feel a pimple coming on right in the center of my left cheek and I know that it will show its brightest colour on the day of the wedding. Acne breakouts can take over your skin anytime, without a warning. And if you’ve faced a similar situation then you know just how annoying it can be. Having acne on the face is, let’s say, challenging. TBH, having them on important days can be disheartening. And don’t take me wrong, I adore everyone, including myself in all forms. But with acne, it becomes less about the looks and more about the feeling and the scar that it can leave.
So, what invites these horrible breakouts? Mainly, it’s the overproduction of oil. The hair follicles which are blocked don’t allow the aforementioned oil to leave the pore, hence, it becomes a clogged pore. The bacteria grow inside the hair follicles, which causes acne.
However, ‘oil’ is the common reason for acne but that isn’t the only reason responsible for a breakout. It also depends on how your body reacts to different hormones. Your acne issue can also be genetic. It can also happen because of a certain daily pattern that you follow, which is fueling an existing issue. Now, that’s an interesting piece of information and as you read through, you’ll learn about everything, from the root of acne to how you can get rid of acne scars. So, shall we?!
Acne is a long-standing, inflammatory skin condition which can cause spots and pimples mostly on the face, neck, back, shoulders, chest and upper arms. On an average, this skin condition affects people on the basis of the environment they are living in as well. It affects 3 in every 4 people aged between 11 to 30 years. However, it may occur at any age but it commonly becomes evident during puberty. That’s when the sebaceous glands activate. The skin condition isn’t dangerous in itself but it can leave long-lasting scars.
Pimples, blackheads, cysts, whiteheads and nodules are all types of acne. They vary in colour, sizes and the level of pain.
Blackheads: They’re clearly visible, mostly around the nose. They are black in colour.
Whiteheads: They remain within the skin and are tiny.
Pustules: These are clearly visible on the skin. They are red from the base and have pus at the top.
Papules: Small, pink bumps which are visible on the skin surface.
Nobules: Clearly visible. They are large, solid, painful pimples that are embedded deep into the skin surface.
Cysts: They are painful and are filled with pus. They can cause scars on the skin and are clearly visible.
Ice-Pick Scar: This type of scar is narrow and deep and causes a pitted appearance in the surface of the skin.
Boxcar Scar: These kind of scars are broad depressions that have sharply defined edges.
Rolling Scar: These type of scars have broad depressions and sloping edges.
Our skin has pores which are connected to oil glands beneath the skin through follicles. Follicles are small sacs that can produce and secrete pigment. These glands produce an oily liquid named sebum. Sebum’s role is to transfer dead skin cells to the surface of the skin through follicles. Small hair on our skin grows through follicles. Pimples grow when these follicles are blocked, hence, oil builds up under the skin.
After oil builds up, skin cells, sebum and hair can group together into a plug. If the plug gets infected with bacteria, it results in swelling. A pimple begins to develop when this plug begins to breakdown. The name of the bacteria that lives on the skin and contributes to infecting pimples is Propionibacterium acnes aka P. acnes.
As per research, the severity of acne depends on the strain of bacteria. However, not all bacteria cause pimples.
There’s a range of reasons for acne but one of the main causes is a rise in androgen levels. When adolescence begins, the levels of androgen rise. Androgen is a type of hormone, which, in women, gets converted into estrogen. The rise of androgen also causes enlargement of oil glands under the skin, which further results in more sebum production. Overly produced sebum can cause a breakdown in cellular walls that are in the pores, which can lead to increased growth of bacteria.
1. Studies suggest your genes may also be responsible for your acne problem.
2. Emotional stress.
3. Greasy cosmetics.
4. Hormonal changes.
5. Medications that contain androgen and lithium.
Even with the best of home remedies and treatments, it’s not easy to avoid acne, thanks to pollution. But here are some everyday measures you can take to protect your acne-prone skin from becoming worse.
1. Wash your face with warm water and an anti-acne soap but not more than twice a day.
2. Don’t pop your pimples as that would leave scars.
3. Be gentle on your pimples while scrubbing as it might trigger the infection. Avoid it, if possible.
4. Avoid touching your face again and again.
5. While talking on phone, try holding it away from your face.
6. If you wear spectacles, clean them regularly as they collect sebum and skin residue.
7. Wash your hands properly, especially, before applying makeup and lotions.
8. Avoid wearing body-hugging clothes and wash them regularly if you are prone to acne on the back, shoulders or chest. Wear something loose and airy to allow your skin to breathe.
9. Always remove makeup before going to bed and choose makeup for sensitive skin. Avoid oil-based products.
10. Say bye-bye to greasy hair products such as ones with cocoa butter. And keep your hair clean as it collects skin residue and sebum.
11. Avoid direct sunlight as sun exposure can promote more sebum production. Acne medications also increase the risk of sunburn.
12. Avoid stress and anxiety as it increases the production of cortisol and adrenaline, which cause acne.
13. Try keeping your skin cool and dry in hot and humid days to avoid sweating.
14. Choose an electric shaver over other hair removal methods.
Many home remedies for acne have been suggested but as not all of them are backed by science, they are used on the basis of their suitability. Here are a few things you can try.
1. Tea-tree oil: Tea-tree oil can help in treating mild to moderate acne. Studies show, applying 5 percent of tea-tree oil effectively reduces acne. Mix it with your everyday cream and apply it at least twice a day.
2. Diet: As per research, if you consume a diet rich in vitamins A and E and zinc, you will lower the risk of severe acne.
3. Moisturisers: Good, chemical-free moisturisers can soothe the skin, especially ones containing aloe vera at a concentration of at least 10 percent. Witch hazel can also give a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect.
4. Tea: The polyphenols present in tea, including green tea, when applied in a topical preparation, can reduce sebum production and treat acne. However, it is suggested that the compound should be extracted from the tea and then used instead of directly applying the tea.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar: It’s made by fermenting apple cider and much like other kinds of vinegar, it’s known to fight off bacteria and viruses. ACV has organic acids that can kill P. acnes and it can also reduce the visibility of acne scars.
6. Take Zinc supplements: Zinc is important for cell growth, metabolism, immunity and hormone production. Studies show that people with low zinc content in their blood had more acne than people who had clearer skin. The recommended safe upper limit for zinc is 40 mg per day. It’s probably best to not exceed that.
7. Apply a honey and cinnamon mask: Both honey and cinnamon are rich in antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory and can fight bacteria.
8. Take fish-oil supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fish like salmon are incredibly healthy. They maintain adequate hydration and prevent acne.
9. Exfoliate regularly: Exfoliation helps in getting rid of dead skin cells and overproduced oils which are highly responsible for acne. It may not necessarily stop acne but it certainly reduces its effect on skin.
Firstly, understand that having blemish-free skin is not a one-step process. Even the 100,000 products that are already available in the market and claim to cure your pimple problems forever, cannot do it. It takes time and a certain lifestyle to maintain it, unless you are blessed with miraculous genes. So here’s what you can do to keep your skin healthy and clean, inside out.
1. Eat healthily: Amidst all the work pressure, changing your diet sounds like one of the most difficult tasks but trust me, it’s not. It’s just the first week or rather first 3-4 days that are troublesome but once you are past that phase, it isn’t so bad. You will feel more energetic and clean from the inside. For acne problems, here are a few changes you must make in your diet.
a. Read the ingredients before buying. Avoid products with too many ingredients or ingredients that you do not know of as they are probably the chemicals or preservatives you should be avoiding,
b. Avoid outside food, especially greasy junk and cook for yourself.
c. Read reviews of the processed and canned products before buying them.
d. Start eating organic vegetable and products.
e. Avoid microwavable and processed items.
f. Avoid red meat and reduce the consumption of meat altogether.
g. Avoid sugary drinks including diet sodas and soft drinks.
h. Start making smoothies.
i. Add probiotics to your daily diet.
j. Eat raw, unprocessed and fresh food.
k. Drink lots of water.
2. Avoid Dairy: For some people, dairy products can have negative effects on the skin. So cutting dairy out of your regular routine will probably be a good idea.
3. Limit alcohol consumption: Many people, including me, have experienced an increase in their acne after consuming alcohol excessively on night outs.
4. Nighty night: Get proper sleep. There’s a reason it’s called beauty sleep. Your body depends on it. Sleep affects your metabolism, stress, hormones and acne.
5. Sweat it out: Hit the gym before acne hits you! Exercising in itself has countless benefits including keeping your skin pores clean. It reduces stress and makes the metabolism better which contributes to clearing up acne.
6. Keep a check on your beauty products: Watch what you apply on your skin. Check the ingredients and avoid as many chemicals as possible, as skin with acne is always sensitive.
7. Stay hydrated: With zero calories in its nutritional value chart, water is a cure to 87 percent of our problems. It keeps the body clean as it flushes out toxins while hydrating you and your skin.
Having oily skin may feel like a big pain as oily skin and acne go hand-in-hand. However, you do have one benefit that people with dry skin don’t - your skin won’t get wrinkles as early and easily as dry skin gets. Still, dealing with oily skin can be a task, especially, when you are trying to avoid acne. But if you follow a few rules and maintain your skin properly, you can enjoy the perks of having a lustrous complexion.
1. Clean your face at least twice a day as dirt sticks to oily skin more than we realise, however, avoid over-cleansing as it might irritate the skin. Make sure to use an anti-acne face wash.
2. Use an astringent as these toner-like products are specially made to remove the excess oil from the oily skin. It also tightens the pores which control sebum production. You can apply it on your face and neck area after cleansing using a cotton pad or a cotton ball.
3. Go for water-based skincare products instead of oil-based.
4. Don’t scrub at your skin. Rubbing your skin with a brush, cleaning pads or a cloth won’t help your skin in preventing acne, it might rather irritate your skin. Oily or not, treat your skin gently.
5. Use exfoliating or acne treatment products regularly as they will remove the excess oil and will take care of the enlarged pores which are responsible for overly-produced sebum.
Out of all the types of acne, inflammatory acne is the most frustrating as they last longer. However, you can take care of your skin and avoid these by following a few steps. Inflammatory acne includes pimples, larger lesions and pustules that are formed when sebaceous glands are worked up. They can lead to redness, swelling and pain depending on the severity of acne. AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) are the first layer of defence against the inflammatory acne. These acids are added as ingredients in creams, gels and washes. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of benzoyl peroxide act as an effective agent. Apart from the hydroxy acids, consumption or application of vitamin A derivatives also fight the greasy skin and prevent inflammation. In case your zit gets out of control, do seek the help of a professional.
Acne is bad but acne scars are literally the worse. It doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t vanish, it just sits there, visible in the centre of everything while we wait for it to fade away. As per stats, more than 95 percent of acne patients are left with a scar. However, the sooner you treat acne, the lesser are the chances of it leaving behind a scar. So the best way to avoid an acne scar is to start treating it as soon as it starts to appear. And whatever you do, do NOT pick on it or try to pop it yourself, this is a sure shot way of getting a mark or scar.
Unfortunately, an acne scar is an unwanted gift that comes along with a zit and if it’s too late for you to prevent the scar, let’s just try to get rid of it by using acne scar removal methods. The job is difficult but the right treatments can remove the existing ones and prevent the skin from forming new scars. These are a few acne scar treatment options to try.
1. Steroid treatments: Steroid injections can help flatten thick scars and reduce inflammation. They also make the skin surface look softer. However, make sure you receive these injections from a licensed dermatologist.
2. Dermabrasion: This is a common treatment that almost all dermatologists offer, wherein a rotating instrument exfoliates the skin, to remove the outer layers. It is a very effective and popular treatment for fading scars and leaving your skin soft and smooth.
3. Punch Excision: It can be a great way to diminish ice-pick acne scars. Punch excision closes a scar with sutures and allows the dermatologist to bring the dermis back in alignment. The procedure can leave a faint, tiny scar which can be removed by laser resurfacing or chemicals peels.
4. Fillers: It’s one of the most popular methods amongst acne patients. Fillers can help in filling the shallow depressions that are left behind and provide instant results which may last up to a year. In the process, some dermatologists also choose to transplant a patient’s fat from one part of the body to the other.
5. Subcision: A dermatologist undermines the acne scar with a needle to break apart fibrous bands of scarred tissue. Once they are broken, the tension is removed and new collagen for a smoother skin surface can grow.
6. Chemical peels: This is one of the most popular treatments for acne scarring. Skincare professionals apply a layer of strong acid on the skin to peel off the top layer and reduce the visibility of acne scars. The chemical peels mostly involve glycolic acid. However, chemical peels are not good for all skin types. People who have darkly pigmented skin must avoid it as it highlights pigmentation.
7. Laser treatment: The laser treatment removes sun-damaged skin layer by layer and allows new skin to grow through. However, this treatment involves using a wave of carbon dioxide which can lead to some side effects such as skin discolouration, infections, swelling and so on. Another non-ablative laser treatment is also available which targets the dermis and leaves the epidermis intact. Laser treatment cannot remove deep scars completely but can improve the appearance of acne scars.
Images Source: Shutterstock
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