What is acne? What are pimples?
A normal follicle looks like this:
For reasons no one completely understands, follicles,
often called pores, sometimes get blocked. Sebum (oil) which normally
drains to the surface gets blocked and bacteria begins to grow. Both
whiteheads and blackheads start out as a "microcomedone". The picture
below is a "microcomedone":
trapped sebum and bacteria stay below the skin surface, a whitehead
blackhead occurs when the trapped sebum and bacteria partially
open to the surface and turn black due to melanin, the skin's pigment.
Blackheads can last for a long time because the contents very slowly
drain to the surface.
Either way, blackheads and whiteheads are filled with
trapped sebum and bacteria.
Acne is a skin condition that occurs due
to the overproduction of oil by the oil glands of the skin. The oil that
normally lubricates the skin gets trapped in blocked oil ducts and results
in what we know as pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads on the surface of
skin. Sometimes it also includes deeper skin lesions that are called
- Pimples are small skin swellings that sometimes
- Blackheads are dark formations on the skin due to an
accumulated mixture of oil and cells in a blocked skin pore.
- Whiteheads are small flesh-or white-colored bumps due
to skin pore blockage.
- Cysts are closed sacs beneath the skin or deeper that
contain fluid or semisolid substances.
The areas of the skin that are most susceptible to acne
are those areas that contain the largest number of oil glands. For
example, it is estimated that there are 2,000 oil glands per square inch
on the forehead alone. The face, chest, shoulders, and back are the areas
with the highest population of oil glands.
Acne commonly occurs in people between their teenage
years and their 20s. However, it is not restricted to this age. Older
adults and children can also have acne.
Facts About Acne
- In most people, acne will last for about three to
four years and in 15% of the cases, acne can continue for eight-12
- In a smaller percentage (5%), acne will last beyond
age 25 and can continue up to age 40.
- In women particularly, acne may not occur until age
- In 70% of the cases, women will notice a flare-up in
the acne condition prior their menstrual period, perhaps due to an
increase of androgens. Androgens are steroid hormones responsible for
the development and maintenance of male physical characteristics.
- The more severe cases of acne tend to occur most
often in men, because they produce more of the male hormones that
stimulate acne formation.
- Women with a lot of body or facial hair, and those
who have irregular periods, may be at increased risk of acne. These
women may want to have their hormone levels evaluated by a physician.