Individuals desire to have a clear, radiant face. But due to several factors, the face can experience various challenges, and one of those is acne, which stands out as a common and persistent concern. This skin condition occurs in teenagers who are undergoing puberty and in adults facing the persistent presence of blemishes.
What is acne?
Acne is a common skin condition that happens when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Usually, it appears as pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, or cysts on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms. Acne can vary in severity from mild, with a few occasional blemishes, to severe, with extensive and painful breakouts.
What are the main causes of acne?
As a complex skin condition, acne can be caused by several factors, such as:
- Excess Sebum Production: Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin that plays a variety of roles in the skin’s health, such as protection from drying out. When the sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin produce excessive amounts of sebum oil due to hormonal, lifestyle and other factors, it can contribute to clogged pores and acne.
- Clogged Hair Follicles: When the hair follicles become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, it creates an environment where acne-causing bacteria can thrive.
- Bacterial Infection: Certain bacteria, such as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), naturally live on the skin’s surface. This bacteria is harmless when it is small in number. However, an individual who is prone to acne can experience overgrowth in clogged hair follicles, leading to inflammation and the formation of pimples.
- Diet: There are individuals who consume certain foods that can trigger or worsen their acne. Some of these foods are those that have a high glycemic index, such as sugary snacks and beverages, as these trigger an insulin response, which can lead to increased oil production in the skin. Excess oil production can contribute to acne.
- Genetics: Hereditary factors can also cause acne, which means that if one has parents or close family members who have acne, he or she is more likely to have it. Specific cases include having family members with naturally oily skin; it is more likely that one may also have overactive sebaceous glands.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and certain medical conditions, can influence sebum production and make individuals more susceptible to acne.
How does acne affect an individual?
Individuals with acne can experience various impacts on their lives, may it be emotionally, socially, or physically. These impacts can differ depending on how severe the acne is and how an individual perceives it. Some of these impacts are:
- Low Self-Esteem: Acne can significantly impact an individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence, as they may feel self-conscious about their appearance.
- Anxiety and Depression: Some individuals with acne may experience feelings of anxiety and depression, particularly if their acne is severe or if they have a negative body image.
- Social Withdrawal: Acne can lead to social withdrawal and avoidance of social situations, especially for those who feel embarrassed or anxious about their appearance.
- Stigmatisation: Unfortunately, people with acne may face stigmatisation and negative comments from others, which can further harm their self-esteem and well-being.
- Skin Discomfort: Acne can cause physical discomfort due to the presence of pimples, cysts, and nodules, which may be painful and tender to the touch.
- Scarring: In some cases, severe acne can lead to scarring, which may be permanent and affect the appearance of the skin.
What are acne scars?
According to Dr Ng Hong Yi, aesthetics practitioner and doctor in Singapore, acne scars are physical changes to the skin that occur as a result of severe or prolonged acne. These scars can develop when the skin’s natural healing processes are disrupted by inflammation and damage caused by acne lesions. Acne scars can be permanent and often manifest as changes in the skin’s texture and appearance. They can affect a person’s self-esteem and confidence. Aesthetic doctors and dermatologists say that early treatment and effective methods are the keys to addressing acne scars.
Here are some common types of acnes cars:
- Ice Pick Scars: These are deep, narrow, and pitted scars that resemble small, deep holes in the skin. They often result from inflammatory acne and are challenging to treat.
- Boxcar Scars: Boxcar scars are wider and have well-defined edges. They create a box-like depression in the skin and are often shallow to moderately deep.
- Rolling Scars: Rolling scars give the skin an uneven, wavy appearance. They are typically the result of damage under the skin’s surface and can be shallow or deeper in nature.
- Hypertrophic or Keloid Scars: These are raised, thickened scars that occur when the body produces too much collagen during the healing process. Hypertrophic scars stay within the boundaries of the original acne lesion, while keloid scars can extend beyond the initial area of damage.
- Atrophic Scars: Atrophic scars are typically depressed areas of the skin. Ice picks, boxcars, and rolling scars fall under this category. They result from the loss of collagen during the healing process.
Acne scar treatments vary from one patient to another. The most important thing to do is consult a dermatologist, as they can assess the skin and recommend the most appropriate treatments, such as:
- Topical Treatments: Some over-the-counter and prescription creams and ointments can help improve the appearance of acne scars. These may include products with ingredients like retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs).
- Chemical Peels: Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin, which causes it to peel and eventually regenerate, leading to a smoother complexion. Different types of peels can be used, depending on the depth and type of scars.
- Microdermabrasion: This non-invasive procedure involves the use of a machine that exfoliates the top layer of skin, helping to reduce the appearance of mild acne scars.
- Microneedling: Microneedling, or collagen induction therapy, uses fine needles to create controlled micro-injuries in the skin, promoting collagen production and improving the texture of the skin.
- Laser Therapy: Various laser treatments, such as fractional laser and CO2 laser, can target different types of acne scars by stimulating collagen production and resurfacing the skin.
Addressing acne scars can sometimes be frustrating and may affect one’s self-confidence. But with the help of professionals, this skin problem can be treated accordingly, which will help individuals achieve smooth skin and be more confident about themselves.