Last Updated June 13th, 2021
Blackheads and whiteheads and pimples, Oh my!
We have all been a victim of it. And they come in different shapes and sizes. Some are red and spotty. Some are benign. Most of them plagued your teenage years.
And for some unlucky ones, they followed you well into your 20s and 30s. Be it an all-important job interview or a wedding you have been planning to attend all season – untimely acne will find a way to pop on your face when you exactly want to steer clear of it. You switch on your television sets, and there are tons of glitzy commercials promising you a fair and clear skin, free from the wrath of zits. Every beauty magazine you pick up, there’s a new technique. But somehow, in spite of religiously following the “drive-the-zits-away” plan, you always find them coming back. And sometimes, with a more pronounced density.
So what IS the secret to a pimple-free skin? What is the magic formula to drive these away? How can you ensure that these don’t spoil your important occasions? Well, we have all the answers here. But to understand, which technique is best suited for your skin, you first need to understand what acne really is.
Going by the medical definition, acne (or acne vulgaris) is a chronic skin inflammation where your hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and/or sebum (oil) from your skin. These are called by a variety of names – whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, pimples, and zits. They usually start appearing on your skin during the time of puberty.
Puberty is the time, when in both the sexes, there is an increased production of the hormone testosterone. Testosterone is basically a male hormone. Its main function is the development of secondary sexual features (in men) and increasing the mass of muscles and bones.
When released in normal amounts, testosterone is relatively harmless. But when your body starts producing more amounts of it, it triggers the production of sebum from the sebaceous glands. This is nothing but oil. Our body has natural reserves of oil which keep your skin soft and supple. Sebaceous glands are the tiny oil reservoirs located under your skin.
These glands also serve as the base for hair follicles. When there is increased oil production in the skin, the pores become clogged with oil. Dead cells and dirt tend to stick to this oily surface. Sometimes, certain bacteria find their way into these oily spots. So when dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and the occasional bacteria meet at a point – the result is a breakout on your skin known as acne.
Black or white?
It can be a bit confusing when you have polar opposite names, blackheads, and whiteheads used to describe the same skin condition. While both blackheads and whiteheads come under the category of pimples (or, comedones), there is a slight difference between them. When the pore, housing the dirt, oil, and dead cells is open, the oxygen in the air starts oxidizing the contents turning it black. This is how blackheads are formed.
When the same thing remains closed, no oxidation happens and the area appears white, hence the name Whitehead. When either of this becomes inflamed, as a result of an infection from the dirt or bacterial growth, it forms a pimple.
Teenage Acne vs. Adult Acne
The period of adolescence – the transition from a kid to a grown-up, is not an easy phase. This life-changing transformative time is filled with physical, mental, and psychological changes. Within a few years, a child starts maturing at a much faster rate and begins the journey of adulthood. Your hormones are raging and you have no idea what is happening to you (and to people around you).
And one of the most starkly visible elements welcoming you to these adventurous years is acne. As mentioned before, a teenager’s body is busy secreting copious amounts of testosterone which is the direct cause of acne. It is very common to see such skin breakouts among young people in the 13-19 years age group. Studies reveal that 85% of all teenagers experience acne during their growing years.
Every time you got obsessed with clearing out these zits, you always heard that one grown-up voice in the background saying “Wait for a few more years, the pimples will vanish once you enter your 20s”. And it was not entirely false. Many of your friends and closed ones got an acne and blemish-free skin as soon as they entered adulthood. But for many, this flawless skin still remained a dream. Acne followed some (maybe even you) in your 20s. Let us see why this usually happens.
What causes acne in adults?
- Your everyday stress might be the biggest factor responsible for these unwanted pimples. Stressful events trigger the release of the hormone cortisol. Now, this hormone alters the testosterone pathways in our bodies, leading to increased production of oil. And, as you all know, more sebum means more acne. So, next time you see yourself getting persistently stressed over things at work, you might a few pimples popping on your skin.
- Take a walk around your neighborhood or travel to work with your car windows down. If you are living an urban area, chances are that as soon as you wipe your face after this brief travel, you will see a layer of soot and pollution settled on your skin.
- Yes, pollution is a major reason why your skin is spawning acne. The dirt and potential carcinogens in the air stick to your skin and cause inflammation.
- Acne and blemishes are the end-result hormonal fluctuations.
- One of the most common reasons is PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). This condition affects roughly 10% of the entire female population and is marked by the large production of male hormones. Other reasons for hormonal imbalances in women causing acne are childbirth, perimenopause (time period before you hit menopause), and monthly menstrual cycles.
- The reasons for adult acne in men include stress, excessive drying out of the skin (which the body compensates by additional oil secretion), and environmental toxins. Even certain male grooming products could cause the outbreak.
- Then it comes down to the diet. The heightened levels of refined sugar intake, to be precise. Sugar tampers with the insulin production and also causes testosterone production. Foods with high glycemic index ( ice-cream, chocolates, fried items, junk food, pizza etc) tend to have a sabotaging effect on your skin when acne is concerned.
It’s time to fight back…
Acne is more than just an eyesore. It could be pus-filled and painful.
It could leave a permanent scar on the skin. And more than that, it could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue.
- The most common places where people find acne spreading are chest (15% of all cases), back (60%), and face (as high as 99%).
- Considering that women experience more hormonal changes during their lives, 80% of all adult acne occurs in women. 20% of all adults get acne.
- The global market for acne is thriving beyond bounds. The net revenue by this sector is nearly $ 3 billion (2016 reports).
- 1 out of every 5 individuals experiencing acne breakouts will suffer from scarring of the skin.
- Teenage boys experience more acne (cyst kind) because of higher testosterone. Teenage girls start to get it at a younger age when compared to boys.
- While 90% of cases observe improvements in their skin who take up proper treatment, 40% of all acne-ridden individuals end up doing nothing about it.
- Going deeper into more serious issues; almost 46% of acne-affected people admit that they felt low in self-esteem. A whopping 92% of acne-suffers have felt depressed and 14% of individuals have had suicidal thoughts. Acne, after all, doesn’t seem like such a trivial matter now.
Instant remedies to bid pimples adieu
- White toothpaste (the non-gel type) can be applied directly to the skin for getting rid of acne. It has anti-bacterial substances which remove excess oil from the site and kill the germs in the skin pores. You can safely use it on the face, arms, and your back.
- Lemon juice, which is oozing with vitamin C, is an excellent acne-remover. Take a cotton swab, dip it in freshly squeezed lemon juice, and apply it to the affected area. Adding some cinnamon powder to it would make it more effective. In the morning, wash it off with lukewarm water.
- Essential oils such as tea tree or frankincense are great for removing acne. Take a few drops of these; mix it with honey, lemon juice, and olive oil. Apply this mixture on the acne points. Aloe vera gel or pulp is also a great topical ointment for removing acne naturally.
- Acne is a direct result of skin inflammation. And to counter this, ice could be the best healer. Take few ice cubes in an ice pack (or just cover it with a piece of clean cloth/towel). Keep this on the acne spots for 10-15 minutes. Don’t exceed more than this since it might cause the capillaries to break. Do this twice a day, once upon waking up and once before going to bed.
- Remember how clogged pores give rise to acne. Try unclogging the pores with the help of steam. Expose the acne-ridden skin area to steam (a drop or two of essential oils here would be great). Once the pores open, use a sterilized tweezer to pluck out the dirt from a pimple. Never steam our face before cleansing it. Rub ice or wash your face with cold water so that the pores close up.
- Refrain from using alcohol-containing cleansers, lotions, or makeup on your skin. Alcohol tends to dry your skin out. Your skin responds by increasing the oil production which triggers more acne. Keep your skin hydrated by drinking enough water. Moisturize it well to prevent acne breakouts.
You are what you eat
Your skin is a mirror of your nutrition. Certain food groups make your skin more prone to acne – dairy, packaged good, refined sugars, cola drinks, greasy foods, junk items. Conversely, many edible items may help your skin fight against acne naturally. The top foods for acne-free skin are fatty fish, flaxseed, nuts such as almonds and walnuts, oysters, fresh fruit juice, probiotics, and green tea.
Coming down to the all-important discussion about you sacrificing chocolates for acne-free skin.There has been an enduring belief in the opinion that chocolates are bad for your skin. But recent studies reveal that it is not the chocolate which is the culprit here, but it’s the copious amounts of refined sugar. An over-indulgence in sugary treats, be it in the form of chocolates or a tall glass of iced coffee, will lead to acne sprouting on your skin.
So, while a small bite of a chocolate bar won’t make a difference, remember to cut down all forms of sugars from your diet to get respite from a blotchy skin.
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