Acne is caused due to overactive oil glands which are present at the base of hair follicles. They are a cause of hormonal changes during adolescence. Oily skin can be hereditary, which increases the sensitivity of the skin to hormonal changes. Skin cells can “plug” skin pores causing “whiteheads” and, with pigment, “blackheads.” A “pimple” is an oil gland that is infected with bacteria, resulting in an inflamed area with pus formation.

Contrary to common belief, acne is not caused by eating oily foods, soft drinks, or chocolate. Also, acne does not mean that the afflicted person’s face is too dirty. Although there is no true “cure” for acne, proper skin care, skin gel, oral antibiotics, and other oral medications are available to control the more severe forms of acne. Scientific research seems to indicate that there are four key factors involved in the acne process:

1) Hormones undergoing a drastic change in the body during the teen years cause the oil glands to become overactive.

2) Family background or heredity plays a very important role as well.

3) If the skin cells that line the oil glands or pores are present in unusually large numbers, they tend to stick together, clogging the openings to the pores, leading to whiteheads or blackheads.

4) Bacteria thrive on this oil from oil glands, growing readily beneath the skin cells and leading to infection. This produces redness and pus formation (the classic “pimple”), or in more serious cases, the infection spreads into deeper skin layers and causes cysts.

Cystic acne is a deeper infection of the skin and is more likely to lead to permanent scarring. What makes acne worse? It is known that squeezing or “popping” pimples tends to force the oil and bacteria into the deeper skin layers, making cysts more likely to occur. Excessive scrubbing of the skin actually irritates the skin and increases the number of loose skin cells, leading to increased pore clogging. Anything that puts pressure on, or rubs the skin excessively will aggravate acne.

Certain medications, especially hormones taken orally or by injection can increase acne as a side effect. Females often observe that their acne increases before or during their menstrual periods, as a result of the increased hormones present at this time. Every woman knows that stress and tension can induce acne flare ups.

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