Having acne on your face can be quite the classic nightmare. Those pesky and stubborn spots and malformations that simply refuse to give your face a break – they can be quiet difficult to deal with it, especially those seasonal ones that resurface with every hormonal shift.
Acne can be the ultimate blow to one’s confidence and unless you are very good with makeup (for the ladies), there is no way to stop them from being so obvious (Most times make up doesn’t always do the trick).
ACNE TYPES AND FACIAL ACNE
Acne also commonly known as pimples or acne vulgaris is a skin condition that causes skin lesions and spots on various parts of the body including the face.
It can appear on the face, back, shoulder, chest, and neck. It is one of the most common skin diseases that affect a large percentage of people worldwide.
Health-wise, acne is not considered a major health condition and it is generally pegged to be harmless. The fact is, most people are bound to experience acne over the course of their lives at one point or the other, but it becomes a cause for concern when it is constant and persistent.
The lesions or blemishes that translate as acne vulgaris on the skin are simply inflamed and infected sebaceous glands of the skin.
Sebaceous glands are glands that are directly below the skin whose function is to secrete a type of oil known as sebum. The oil helps to moisturize and protect the skin against infections. The pores of the skin are connected to these glands.
what causes Acne? Acne occurs when there is excessive production of sebum by the sebaceous glands. In this case, the excess oil penetrates the skin follicles and clog the pores.
The clogged pores then attach to dead skin cells and bacteria and create a plug. The accumulation of sebum in this plug results in acne.
Aside from Acne vulgaris, there are two other major forms of acne namely, acne fulminans and acne mechanica.
Acne fulminans or acne maligna is a rare and severe form of acne that is characterized by painful and inflammatory ulcerative lesions.
The lesions are mostly covered with hemorrhagic crust and they often appear on both the back and chest. It is prevalent among adolescent males where it’s symptoms develop in a sudden and abrupt manner. It is also accompanied by scarring, fever, and joint pain.
Acne Mechanica is a form of acne that is most prevalent among athletes and soldiers. It usually appears on the face, or on the back and shoulders.
It is characterized by inflamed blemishes and can be instigated by excess heat, skin friction, and pressure. People who often tend to have acne breakouts can easily develop acne mechanica.
Facial acne is simply acne that appears on the face. The face is perhaps one of the most common sites on the body that is affected by acne.
Persistent and recurring acne, especially on the face, can deplete a person’s self-esteem. It can also generate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
WHAT CAUSES FACIAL ACNE?
Regardless of where it occurs on the body, acne is generally caused by certain factors such as hormonal changes, genetic factors, presence of acne associated bacteria and stress.
CHANGES IN HORMONE LEVEL: It is not uncommon for pimples to appear on the face during adolescence and teenage years. Hormones are mostly responsible for their formation on the skin during this phase of growth.
During puberty, the body undergoes lots of changes that trigger fluctuations in some hormone levels. A surge in one of such hormones called androgens triggers the skin to produce an excessive amount of sebum which results in the development of acne. Certain hormonal changes specific to both men and women can also cause acne.
HEREDITY/GENETIC HISTORY: Acne is not an actual genetic disease, but certain components of heredity can lead to its development. If a person’s parents or relatives have a history of acne development, the person is likely to experience this skin condition.
STRESS: Stress is an indirect cause of acne. If you have ever noticed a sudden or worsened outbreak of acne after a particularly stressful event, then you know who to blame.
But how does stress relate to acne? When your body is subjected to stress, it releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Fluctuations in these hormones cause the secretion of excess sebum by the sebaceous glands in the skin, which subsequently results in acne.
FACIAL ACNE IN WOMEN
Acne, especially when present on the face can be emotionally distressing for many women. It can bring on feelings of low self-worth in relation to body image.
It can also be an underlying cause of depression and may generally cause a woman’s self-esteem and confidence to deflate.
Hormonal changes linked to the menstrual cycle usually triggers the occurrence of acne in women. In most women, the sudden appearance of facial acne is a sign that their menstrual period is about to commence.
This form of acne also tends to go away as soon as the woman completes her period. Also, hormonal changes due to pregnancy and menopause can improve or worsen acne conditions in women.
The use of certain makeup products on the face can also exacerbate facial acne in women by irritating the lesions.
Acne in young and adolescent teenage girls going through the stages of puberty can be triggered by an increase in androgen hormones.
Young girls undergoing puberty usually have excess androgen hormones, which causes the skin glands to enlarge and secrete more sebum.
Acne conditions often get better as women become older. Nevertheless, some women may experience breakouts all through their lives while some women may experience acne for the first time in their 30s or 40s.
WHAT CAUSES ACNE IN MEN?
Acne isn’t gender-specific as it can also affect men too. Causes of acne in men can also be linked to hormones and genetic factors.
An interaction between the male sex hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and the sebaceous glands of the skin can lead to the development of acne in men.
When DHT comes in contact with the sebaceous glands, it stimulates the glands to produce more than the required amounts of sebum. Acne that results from this interaction usually appears on the chin and jawline of the face.
Research seems to suggest that insulin resistance might be a possible risk factor for the formation of acne in men as insulin can trigger the production of excess androgenic hormones (DHT), among other reasons.
Other possible risk factors include high blood pressure, high body mass index (BMI) and high glucose concentrations in the blood.
TYPES OF FACIAL ACNE
Being able to identify the type of acne on your face is crucial to choosing the right treatment option. Acne Lesions and blemishes are generally categorized into two main types, Namely inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne.
Non-inflammatory acne blemishes like the name imply do not cause swelling (inflammation). They are the milder type of acne and are not painful. They are generally known as whiteheads and blackheads and they can appear on the face.
Blackheads: Also called open comedones, these are clogged pores that appear as a black color against the skin. They can be found on the face as well as on the neck, chest, and back.
The characteristic black color is due to the oxidation of sebum at the surface of the pore. Oxidation occurs because the pore is open at the top despite being clogged with sebum and debris.
Whiteheads: They are also known as closed comedones and are similar to blackheads because they also occur due to clogging of the follicles.
However, the top of the clogged pore is closed unlike in blackheads. They commonly appear as white spots or as a bump that protrudes into the skin or face.
Inflammatory acne usually results from the clogged follicles being infected with bacteria ( propionibacterium acnes). They are usually swollen, red and painful. They include:
Acne Papules: They are inflamed comedones that appear as red or pink bumps on the skin. They are very sensitive to touch and can be painful.
Acne Pustules: They are also inflamed lesions that look like whiteheads but are filled with yellow or white pus. An attempt to extract the pus or pop the pimple can lead to scarring.
Acne Nodules: They are hard, swollen, and painful bumps that develop deep within the skin.
Cystic Acne: These are pimples that look like boils. They are usually large and filled with pus. They are quite painful and may require treatment by a dermatologist.
GRADES OF SEVERITY
The diagnosis and treatment of acne are usually based on how severe the lesion is. The level of severity of an acne lesion is classified into three:
Mild acne: It is diagnosed as having a small number of lesions usually less than 20 comedones or less than 30 lesions. Blackheads and whiteheads are usually considered as mild acne.
Moderate: Moderate acne is characterized by 20 to 100 comedones, and 15 to 50 total lesions. Papules and Pustules fall under the moderate category.
Severe: Severe acne goes further than just the appearance of comedones and lesions. Acne that is severe is usually accompanied by cystic lesions.
A person diagnosed with severe acne typically has 5 pseudocysts or more, more than 100 comedones, and more than 50 lesions. Nodules and cysts are examples of severe forms of acne.
TREATMENT TECHNIQUES FOR FACIAL ACNE
Treatment options for acne including acne on the face are generally classified into Topical (skin medications), Systemic (Prescription oral drugs) and procedural (spa and dermatological treatments).
TOPICAL TREATMENT: This involves the use of non-prescription over-the-counter products like creams, lotions, and toners sold in stores, cosmetic stores, and drugstores. It also involves the use of prescribed topical medication that can be applied to the skin.
Over-the-counter (OTC) Products: OTC treatment products contain active ingredients that are postulated to remedy acne. The most effective OTC products usually contain active ingredients like salicylic acid, sulfur, and Benzoyl peroxide.
Salicylic acid helps the skin to get rid of dead cells before they accumulate into pores. It is especially good for treating comedones(whiteheads and blackheads on the face).
Sulfur helps the skin to get rid of excess oil on the skin, it also fights against bacteria. It works best for comedones, papules, and pustules. Sulfur isn’t effective against severe acne like nodules and cyst.
Benzoyl peroxide is an active ingredient found in common acne treatment products like Clearasil and Proactiv. It is active against the bacteria present in clogged pores, it introduces oxygen into the pores which kill the bacteria. It also gets rid of dead skin cells which aid to prevent further acne breakouts.
Topical prescription medication: Prescription medication is usually recommended when OTC products fail to alleviate the symptoms of acne. They are commonly used to treat mild to moderate and some severe forms of acne. Common topical acne medications are :
Retinoids: Retinoid drugs are derivatives of vitamin A. Examples include Differin, Avage, and Tazorac. They work to protect the hair follicles from getting plugged by skin debris, dead cells, and bacteria. Retinoids also come in the form of creams, lotions, and gels.
Azelaic acid: Works by eliminating a great number of acne bacteria. It also helps the skin to shed dead cells and prevents hyperpigmentation. It is available in creams and gels.
Antibiotics: They work against acne bacteria (P. acnes). Examples include erythromycin and clindamycin. Antibiotics can be used in combination with topical retinoids in what is known as a combination of acne treatment.
SYSTEMIC TREATMENT: Includes oral acne prescription medications that work from within the body to treat acne.
It is mostly prescribed to treat severe acne breakouts including cystic lesions. Oral antibiotics, oral drugs, and some birth control pills are examples of systemic acne treatments.
Oral acne drugs like isotretinoin (another vitamin A derivative) is believed to be one of the most potent drugs used for the treatment of severe acne.
Brand name drugs for isotretinoin include Absorica and Zenatane. These drugs, however, can cause severe birth defects and pregnant women are warned against using them.
Birth control pills and drugs like spironolactone can help treat acne in women who experience period-related acne breakouts and in women with hormonal disorders. This form of treatment is also known as a hormone treatment for acne.
MEDICAL PROCEDURES: Certain medical procedures and surgeries carried out by dermatologists and seasoned physicians can be used to combat the problem of acne on the face and on other parts of the body.
These procedures can be expensive and may not suffice as a long-term cure for acne. Some of these procedures are as follows :
Blemish excision surgery: This is a type of surgery carried out by a physician to drain stubborn and hard to treat acne lesions on the face and on other parts of the body.
Acne injections: This involves the use of corticosteroid injections (cortisone shots) to treat very severe acne-like inflamed, large and painful cysts.
It is done by a physician or dermatologist. The dermatologist injects a diluted corticosteroid injection directly into the cysts to relieve swelling and pain.
It helps the lesions to heal faster. However, this treatment technique can leave scars on the face and skin.
Phototherapy: It is also called blue light therapy and it is done by a specially trained physician or dermatologist. It is FDA-approved and it is used for the treatment of stubborn acne that does not respond to other treatment options.
It can also be used to treat moderate acne. It involves the use of blue light within a safe wavelength to eradicate acne associated bacteria. This treatment technique for acne is still being explored and it has very few efficacy reports.
ACNE FACIAL STEPS
Commonly referred to as acne facials, this is a treatment procedure done by an esthetician in beauty outlets like spas and salons.
These facials may or may not work and often requires consistency for it to be effective. Most facials tend to focus on removing acne or discolorations and scarring left by acne.
While doing facials, it is recommended that you continue other acne treatments or home remedies for better results. Below are some types of facial treatment techniques.
Microdermabrasion: In this procedure, the esthetician uses a handheld device or machine to exfoliate and remove the outermost layer of the skin, which serves to unclog the pores.
A moisturizer is usually applied 30 to 40 minutes after the procedure is completed. It can be used to treat blackheads and whiteheads and it often leaves the skin smooth, brightened and even-toned.
Comedo extractions: Helps to decongest clogged pores. An extractor tool or the fingers is used to clear comedones(blackheads and whiteheads). It cannot be used for nodules or cystic acne.
LED machine treatment: This technique involves the use of an LED machine to treat acne breakouts on the face. The skin is exposed to the LED machine which emits white, red, and blue infrared lights.
The white light acts by toning the skin as it penetrates deep into the skin, the blue combats acne associated bacteria, while the red promotes collagen growth for skin health. It is mostly used in the treatment of mild pimples.
Chemical peels: Chemical peels are a combination of chemical solutions that are applied on the surface of the skin to remove the outermost layer of the skin to enable new skin to grow in its place. It helps to unclog acne pores, lighten dark spots and improve skin texture.
ALTERNATIVE HOME REMEDIES: Tea tree oil, some moisturizers, and polyphenols in tea can be used to tackle acne at home.
There is evidence to suggest that using 5% tea tree oil on acne sites can help treat mild to moderate forms of acne. Also, polyphenols from tea( green tea inclusive ) have been shown to minimize oil secretion in the skin when applied as a topical preparation on the skin to treat acne. Some moisturizers especially those containing aloe Vera can work to soothe inflammation caused by acne.
SOME TIPS TO MANAGE AND PREVENT FACE ACNE
- Wash your face with mild soap at least twice a day.
- Avoid touching your face often and wash your hands before touching the face to prevent incidences of infection or further irritation to acne lesions
- Do not hold your mobile device against the skin of your face as sebum and skin debris can accumulate on the screen.
- Wash your face with warm soapy water before shaving and make sure to always use electric shavers or safety razors only.
- However tempting it may be, do not pop pimples or extract the pus from acne lesions. This can worsen the lesion and leave dark spots and scars.
- Endeavor to remove makeup from your face before going to bed. Always go for products that are less likely to worsen or trigger a break out when buying make up.
- Use sunscreen on your face to avoid direct exposure to the sun, as this can trigger more sebum production.