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Acne is a universal condition. A person is more likely to develop acne than any other disease.
It usually starts in adolescence and resolves by the mid twenties, but may continue beyond this age. Some degree of acne will affect over 90% of men and over 80% of all women at some time
in their lives, and many of these cases may require the help of a physician.
Acne develops earlier in women than in men and this may be due in part to the fact that, in general, women mature earlier than men. In fact, comedones (black heads and white heads) may be an early sign of puberty and often precede more inflammatory lesions (pimples) by two to three years.
Acne is a chronic, inflammatory condition that affects a particular type of pore or follicle know as the sebaceous follicle. These sebaceous follicles contain large oil glands (known as sebaceous glands) with deep and winding canals and a small, thin hair. These follicles are most numerous and the largest on the face but can also be found on the ears, neck, chest, back, and upper arms. Because of their structure, they are prone to the development of comedones. These comedones may then progress into pimples, pustules, and even cysts or nodules.
Despite an attempt to dispel many of the common myths regarding acne and acne therapy, many people remain confused as to whether there is any truth behind these myths. Below is a discussion of some of the more common misconceptions that still exist...
MYTHS ABOUT ACNE
Diet and acne Chocolate. Greasy food. Candy. They all make acne worse, right? Not really. While the relationship between certain foods and acne remains one of the most commonly held beliefs, these beliefs are not supported. There have been several studies that have attempted to prove a link between diet and acne, but most have failed to prove a relationship. A recent study did suggest that milk intake, specifically skim mild could be related to acne as well as a smaller relationship with sherbet, cottage cheese, and cream cheese. The though proposed was that increased hormones found in the these dairy products were causing the acne. However, the data collected in this study was based on recall of acne, and did not actually involve a clinical diagnosis. In addition, there has been talk about the "western" diet and its overall effect on acne. The only study to look at this however, did not prove any significant relationship. So, to date, no overall conclusions can be made regarding the relationship between diet and acne. That being said, if it seems that a certain food is making your acne worse, it is best to try and avoid that food.
Hygiene/dirt and acne It is a commonly held belief that dirt makes acne worse. However, when looking at the key components of acne, we see that this is a deeper process, and that dirt is actually not a factor. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to support the fact that dirt contributes to acne.
Face washing and acne Most physicians recommend washing the face gently twice a day. There is a misconception however that washing the face more may help to further decrease acne. The opposite may be true. Increased or vigorous facial washing may cause a mechanical effect that can worsen acne. Face washing helps most if the use of a therapeutic cleanser is used and many physicians will include a prescription cleanser in individual acne regimens.
Stress and acne The relationship of stress and acne has recently been re-evaluated. A recent study, though small, indicated that stress may in fact be associated with worsening of acne. It is felt that stress may release additional hormones that may influence acne formation. The study was small, but it seems that stress and acne may indeed be related.
Touching the face and acne Similar to other myths, it is felt that touching the face may aggravate acne due to contamination with bacteria, adding dirt to the face, or adding more oil to the face. These ideas have never been supported. The only way that touching the face influences acne is by a mechanical phenomenon in which resting on a hand, etc. can cause breakdown of the follicles in an individual who is prone to acne (acne mechanica). In addition, a more extreme form of touching the face is picking at pimples and scratching them (acne excoriee). This type of behavior clearly can worsen acne.
Popping pimples and scarring One commonly help belief is that popping pimples can make them disappear faster. While this may be true in rare cases of very superficial lesions, attempting to pop deeper lesions may actually worsen acne. When a deeper acne lesion in manipulated, there is a risk of pushing the inflammation deeper into the skin causing the follicle to stretch, distort, or even rupture. This then attracts more inflammation which causes the lesion to actually lasts longer and may even lead to scarring.
Sleep and acne While there is no clear cut evidence that lack of sleep worsens acne, some feel that lack of sleep occurs most commonly during periods of high stress. This high stress level as previously discussed may contribute to worsening of acne.
Hydration (water consumption) and the skin It is a widespread belief that drinking more water will help to hydrate the skin and that this can improve acne. This belief however is significantly flawed. There is no proof that increased water consumption can help acne. In addition, there is no scientific or studied proof that it can help hydrate the skin.
Tanning and acne Many people fell that sunlight and tanning helps their acne. This may be true for a few reasons. First of all, a tan may help to cover up the appearance of blemishes. In addition, similar to the use of blue-light and lasers, UV light may help to kill bacteria and thus help acne. With this being said however, broad exposure to the sun or tanning booths is not recommended for the treatment of acne as the potential risks of skin cancer and photo aging far out weight the benefits it can provide in treating acne.
Exercise and acne For some people, exercise may seem to help acne and likely this is from stress reduction. In others however there is the belief that sweat blocks pores and that this can in fact worsen or cause acne. A recent, small study however did not demonstrate any effect between physical activity induced sweat and the formation of acne. One explanation for the development of acne in athletes is acne mechanica as this can develop from heat, pressure, friction and occlusion that often occurs in individuals wearing heavy equipment while playing sports.
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