Acne is a skin condition that shows up as different types of bumps. They include whiteheads, blackheads, red bumps (pimples), and bumps that are filled with pus (pustules). What causes these annoying bumps? Well, your skin is covered with tiny holes called hair follicles, or pores. Pores contain sebaceous (say: suh-bay-shus) glands (also called oil glands) that make sebum (say: see-bum), an oil that moistens your hair and skin.
Most of the time the glands make the right amount of sebum, and the pores are fine. But sometimes a pore gets clogged up with too much sebum, dead skin cells, and germs called bacteria. This can cause acne.
If a pore gets clogged up, closes, and bulges out from the skin, that's a whitehead. If a pore clogs up but stays open, the top surface can get dark and you're left with a blackhead. Sometimes the walls of the pore are broken, allowing sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells to get under the skin. This causes a small, red infection called a pimple. Clogged-up pores that open up deep in the skin can lead to bigger infections known as cysts.
What causes acne?
No one factor causes acne. Acne happens when oil (sebaceous) glands come to life around puberty stimulated by male hormones from the adrenal glands of both boys and girls. Oil is a natural substance which lubricates and protects the skin, and under certain circumstances, cells that are close to the surface block the openings of sebaceous glands and cause a buildup of oil underneath. This oil stimulates bacteria, (which live in everyone's skin and generally cause no problems), to multiply and cause surrounding tissues to become inflamed.
If the inflammation is right near the surface, you get a pustule; if it's deeper, a papule (pimple); deeper still and it's a cyst. If the oil breaks though to the surface, the result is a "whitehead." If the oil becomes oxidized (that is, acted on by oxygen in the air), the oil changes from white to black, and the result is a "blackhead."
Some factors that don't usually cause acne, at least by themselves are:
In occasional patients, contributing factors may be:
What Things Can Make Acne Worse?
Some things can make acne worse:
People with acne are usually familiar with whiteheads (milium), however they don't know what causes them or how to get rid of them. The difference between this and a blackhead is that blackheads are exposed to oxygen which causes the black appearance.
A whitehead is a build-up of oils and dead skin that plugs up your pores. It is embedded under the skin so it appears as a raised white bump. These are also referred to as "closed comedones". This is because the pore is not open and oxygen never comes in contact with it. They are caused by hardened oils under the skin that are clogging the pores, which is the cause of most acne to begin with. Some dermatologists believe that people with frequent outbreaks may produce a drier oil than normal, which makes them susceptible to getting clogged pores. If you wear make-up, avoid using anything that is greasy to prevent all forms acne. Another acne preventing precaution is to wash your pillowcase regularly as well as your hair. This will prevent old dirt and oils from rubbing off onto your skin and causing irritation.
A blackhead (medically known as an open comedo, plural comedones ) is a yellowish or blackish bump or plug on the skin. A blackhead is a type of acne vulgaris. It is caused by excess oils that have accumulated in the sebaceous gland's duct. Blackheads are typically caused by excessive oil and makeup, which can facilitate the multiplication of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, the predominant anaerobe of the normal skin flora. The substance found in these bumps mostly consists of keratin and modified sebum (an oily secretion of the sebaceous gland), which darkens (resembling dirt) as it oxidizes.
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