What is acne and how does it develop?
Acne (from the Greek akmé meaning the highest point) is one of the most common ailments of the skin. Acne vulgaris mostly afflicts adolescents and young adults and is generally a problem with the normal function of the sebaceous glands. Normal skin excretions become blocked at the hair follicle, even the very fine hairs on the face, and a backup of dead skin and oil builds up. This in turn forms comedones, better known as spots, whiteheads (closed comedones) or blackheads (open comedones). Bacteria normally present on the surface of the skin enters the follicle which leads to inflammation and the production of small puss-filled abscesses. The more severe and deeper the infection, the better the chance for acne scarring. The face is the most common area affected, as well as hair follicles on the chest and back. Acne vulgaris most commonly begins after puberty, though some woman may also experience this skin condition around the time of their period. Acne inversa, which also commonly affects adults, is a more severe infection involving blockages of the apocrine or sweat glands and hair follicles (i.e. blocked pores). It occurs most commonly in the underarms, groin region and folds of the buttocks.
Acne-like changes in the skin may also occur due to contact with a variety of substances: chlorinated hydrocarbon (for example in moth balls, resulting in chlorine acne), tar evaporation (tar acne), paraffin/kerosene, lubricants and related products (oil acne). The ingestion of iodine or bromine containing compounds can cause acne (iodine acne or bromine acne). Acne has also been noted in more sensitive individuals after the application of corticosteroids (steroid acne).
It's easy to see that the causes of acne vary greatly – it's not only a skin problem which affects teenagers and young adults. More and more adults and older people are also developing this skin condition.
It's interesting to note that animals are not affected by either acne vulgaris or acne inversa.
The signs of acne (acne vulgaris or acne inversa) include reddening, swelling and itching as well as pain on palpation due to the blockage of pores. If the inflammation is more severe, swelling in the lymph nodes, headache, fever and sepsis may also result. Extremely severe inflammation related to acne can result in scarring.
There's often a viscous cycle involved: itchiness leads to scratching, then the skin of the sufferer becomes irritated and more vulnerable to bacteria on the skin. Pimples develop, and continued itching can lead to further injuries of the skin and scarring becomes more likely. For such cases it's important to alleviate to the itching. From that point, treatment of the acne (acne vulgaris or acne inversa) can focus more on the root causes of the skin condition and the sources of the problem can be addressed.
People with acne not only suffer with "bad skin" – psychological and social problems can also result from stigmatisation. This is also true for the after effects of skin conditions such as acne vulgaris and acne inversa: acne scars, sometimes severe. The treatment of acne of whatever type really ought to also address the social consequences of the skin condition, and of course the scarring caused by injuries from scratching.
Causes of Acne (inversa and vulgaris)
The causes of acne often have to due with imbalances in in the sex hormones – some people are genetically predisposed to developing the problem as they are more susceptible to secondary inflammation caused by pyogenic organisms (e.g. staphylococcus, corynebacterium acnes). Other external factors like stress, smoking, bad diet and the application of cosmetics (which can block pores). In summary, the main causes are:
Androgens (male hormones):
Androgens like testosterone stimulate the production of sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands
These work along with androgens to increase synthesis of oils by the sebaceous glands.
Propionibacterium acnes plays an important role in the inflammation process. This bacteria thrives in blocked pores and this leads to skin inflammation.
Comedous Matter (encourage spots, blackheads and whiteheads):
Materials that hinder the normal sloughing and elimination of dead skin, so supporting the production of pimples. They are commonly found in cosmetic products.
It is well-known the cigarette smoke contains a high amount of arachidonic acid and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which has been shown to initiate a phospholipase-A2 cycle which in turns heightens the inflammatory effect of the arochodonic acid.
The stress hormone CRH influences the production of oil in the skin and promotes the transformation of DHEA into testosterone.
Various foodstuffs as well as "false-foods" can negatively influence the metabolism of the skin which in turn can lead to the appearance of pimples and blackheads. The resulting increase in bacteria in the skin can cause irritation, leading to inflammation and acne.
Types of Acne Treatments (acne inversa and acne vulgaris)
The treatment depends on how bad the condition is and can be very lengthy and drawn-out. For severe inflammation with puss production, antibiotics are often used. In less severe cases, the acne treatment is usually local and involves reducing or removing the amount of oil in the skin. This can take the form of an acne cream or lotion containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulphur, ichthyol, vitamin A acid or antibiotics. Other acne treatments such as skin exfoliation via a peeling therapy or treatment with UV-A lamps as well as hot-packs are also common. For very severe acne (acne inversa or acne vulgaris), a vitamin A derivative called a retinoid (e.g. retinol, retinal, tretinoin, retinoic acid, Retin-A, isotretinoin, alitretinoin) may be used. Changes in diet such as elimination of animal fats and chocolate can be very effective. Good function of the digestive system and good nutrition are both very important in the treatment of acne.
Some Advice from fangocur on the Treatment of Acne, Spots and Pimples
Unfortunately medical treatment using only medications is still common today. For acne (both acne vulgaris and acne inversa), this is very much the case. We recommend a more comprehensive therapy which involves more natural means. With the use of such natural methods, it's possible that the need for acne medication be reduced or even eliminated. Good functioning of the skin is normal so supporting these processes in a natural way, one free of side effects, would only make sense. We recommend the fangocur Anti-Acne Plan (for all types of acne), including the fangocur Acne Mineral Mask and fangocur Bentomed – both important and effective all-natural methods to rid the skin of acne. In addition, we advise a gentle daily cleansing using the fangocur Acne Mineral Soap as well as use of the skin cream especially developed for this skin condition: fangocur Mineral Cream N°4.