By Dr Vivian Oputa
For some people acne is just an annoying condition while for others it is a significant problem that has a very significant impact on their lifestyle and quality of life.
Acne can show up as pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, congested pores, pustules or cysts (deep seated pimples). It is one of the most common skin conditions affecting most people at some point in their lives. All forms of acne start out as a clogged, congested pore. Skin normally sheds its dead cells and pores get blocked because sometimes this process is not complete.
Leftover dead cells mix with excess surface oil and block the pores and as a result, the cells, sebum and bacteria get trapped leading to inflammation which shows up as tender, red bumps. These blemishes are seen in areas where there are many oil producing glands (sebaceous glands) mainly on the face, back and chest. A lot can be done to control acne with over the counter preparations. More difficult cases need to consult a physician.
Acne shows up in puberty as the oil glands come to life when stimulated by male hormones produced in the adrenal glands of both boys and girls but why it affects some and not others in not well understood. These oil glands, located just beneath the skin, constantly produce and secrete oil through the skin pores to lubricate and protect the skin.
When the pores are blocked by dead cells and debris, the oil produced builds up and naturally occurring bacteria feast on the oil and multiply leading to the inflammation of the surrounding tissue. If the inflammation is near the surface, you get a pustule; if itâ€™s deeper you get a papule which is a pimple; deeper than this forms a cyst. When the oil breaks through the surface, you get a whitehead and if this oil oxidises turning from white to black, you get a blackhead.
Faulty skin cell turnover and stress may also play roles in the development of acne. Stress boosts the hormones that stimulate oil production so acne tends to worsen in periods of stress. There are mild, moderate and severe degrees of acne. Regardless of the degree of acne that may be present, the oil-bacteria-inflammation cycle has to be broken to get clear skin.
Acne is not just a teenage problem as cases of Adult Acne are on the increase. Adult acne eruptions usually occur along the jaw line and chin and are typically stubborn, under the skin cysts. Fortunately, therapy for preventing and treating acne are more effective than ever before. The major contributing factors to acne breakouts are hormonal imbalance, stress, diet and genetics.
The Acne/Diet Relationship
For years Dermatologists have stated that foods do not affect your skin but recent studies have shown a relationship between acne and the food we eat. Foods with a high glycaemic index such as processed carbohydrates and refined sugar are the culprits.
The glycaemic index measures how a food affects blood sugar levels and hence insulin release. The faster a food breaks down during the digestive process, the higher the glycaemic index. It is believed that the rapid breakdown stimulates a rapid rate of insulin release which in turn stimulates increased oil production and skin cell turnover in the pores providing a feasting ground for bacteria.
Foods with a high glycaemic index include Donuts, cake, sweets, white bread, corn flakes and potatoes to mention a few. Reducing your intake of such food may go a long way to help reduce breakouts.