Acne 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 defense 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. See side bars for more information.
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.