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Five Fast Facts About Acne

Acne is the most common skin condition in America, affecting more than 50 million people.  In addition to causing visible skin issues, acne can also contribute to depression, low self-esteem and anxiety.


Here’s what you need to know about this common skin problem.

1. Four physiologic processes contribute to acne breakouts.

Acne is caused by a four-step process.  First, dead skin cells accumulate in the skin follicle.  This accumulation then causes an increased production of sebum, an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands.  Next, the sebum becomes infected by a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes.  Lastly, the bacteria causes inflammation, which leads to visible acne lesions.

2. Certain people are at higher risk for developing acne than others.

Teenagers are the most common demographic to suffer from acne, with up to 90% of teens affected by the skin condition (this doesn’t mean acne will completely disappear after your teenage years end). Women are also prone to premenstrual acne flares, which typically happen 7-10 days before the start of their period, due to hormonal fluctuations.

3. There are several known acne triggers.

In addition to hormones triggering acne, there is some evidence to show that certain medications (including testosterone, lithium and steroids) can trigger acne breakouts in some people.  Dairy products and high-carbohydrate foods may trigger acne as well. Stress has also been shown to worsen acne flares.

4. Multiple acne treatment options are available.

There are several acne treatments that target each of the four steps of the acne-producing process.  Retinoids and salicylic acid decrease the accumulation of dead skin cells in the hair follicles.  Oral isotretinoin and oral hormonal medications decrease sebum production. Benzoyl peroxide and oral antibiotics decrease bacteria.  And oral antibiotics, oral isotretinoin and topical retinoids decrease inflammation.

5. Some cases of acne can be prevented.

There are several things you can do to try to prevent an acne breakout.  First, avoid acne triggers when possible, like dairy and high-carbohydrate foods. Note that different foods may trigger some individuals but not others, so speak to your dermatologist if you are unsure what type of foods may be triggers for you. Use non-comedogenic skin care products and cosmetics, as they are known to not clog pores. Use a facial cleanser on your skin every morning and before going to bed.  And if you’re prone to acne on your chest or back, avoid wearing clothing items that rub against the skin in that area for long periods of time, such as turtlenecks and sports bras.



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