What Can You Do About Acne Outbreaks?
Acne is a very common condition and although it mostly occurs when we are in our teens, other age groups can be affected too - from newborn babies to adults and even pets!
Whatever our age, we can become quite distressed when we start to notice pimples and blemishes on our skin where there were none before.
Caused by various factors that lead to increased oil production, acne outbreaks can be as a result of stress or hormonal changes (it can be puberty, pregnancy or even the menopause).
Then pores can become blocked with sebum with bacteria building up inside the clogged pores and the body responds by sending cells to deal with the infestation.
Blemishes and pimples can then appear.
What are the different types of acne?
Acne vulgaris lesions are more commonly known as pimples, white heads, blackheads - or the slang term of “zits”.
More severe lesions are known as comedones or nodules. These lesions occur when there is a change in the skin cell units that contain sebaceous glands, a substance called sebum, and a hair follicle. When oil or dead skin cells build up and clog these units, a breakout or lesion can occur.
Hormone changes that cause an excess of oil in the skin are the leading cause of acne vulgaris and this is why the inflammatory skin condition is most likely in the teens when breakouts can be attributed to the levels of the hormone testosterone in varying degrees in males and females.
Cystic acne gets its name from the cysts that appear during an outbreak. Unfortunately, cystic acne is the most severe and often the most painful type of acne that you can suffer from. Acne is a disorder of the sebaceous glands so that when these glands lubricate the skin and become blocked, bacteria overgrows and causes skin blemishes. However with cystic acne, breakouts can be deep and inflamed on or around the face or even other parts of the body.
Cystic acne is more likely to affect teenage boys and young male adults and are often passed down so genetics can play a role. Breakouts of cystic acne cause serious damage to the skin and destroy healthy skin tissue so should never be ignored and will need treatment. Always avoid picking at cysts as this can worsen the situation and even lead to scarring.
Hormonal acne is another type of of acne caused by hormonal imbalances in the body particularly when hormones in the body begin to overproduce and cause changes in the body such as an increased secretion from the oil glands. The hormones that are responsible are androgens which affect the sebaceous glands that are responsible for keeping the skin moisturized. The inner skin linings are also affected due to the influence of hormones. Hormonal acne is common in teens but also affects adults. In women, factors such as stress, pregnancy, menstruation, or even an endocrine imbalance have been known to lead to hormonal acne. All this is related to hormonal changes in the body.
The condition known as rosacea is a skin condition that affects a large section of the white population especially those living in north western Europe with as many as 45 million people affected by this skin disease including 14 million Americans. Rosacea is a skin condition with symptoms appearing on the face. It causes facial redness and looks similar to pimples or acne. There are many theories behind the causes of Rosacea. Some believe that it is caused by a disorder of the blood vessels, causing swelling of the vessels in the facial region. Then there are those who believe that it is caused by a gastrointestinal system bacterial infection.
What are blackheads and whiteheads?
Whiteheads are pimples that are filled with pus and this is what gives them their name. They are formed when excess oil from the sebaceous glands clogs up the pores or hair follicles on the skin. This sebum gets trapped along with other debris and some bacteria which can be airborne or from the skin's surface so that when the trapped sebum and bacteria stay below the skin's surface, a whitehead is formed.
Whiteheads may show up as tiny white spots, or they may be so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. As whiteheads are closed off from the outside air, they remain white and are often to be found hidden away, such as on the forehead under long bangs. However, if these whiteheads open up sufficiently to allow the outside air in, they then turn into blackheads.
Blackheads are often considered to the be first stage of acne. We all get blackheads from time to time but they are more likely in those with an oily skin rather than a dry skin.
Sometimes blackheads form, not from oil below, but from the use of topical oils above or the use of make up which is then not cleaned off correctly so that dead skin cells accumulate within the pores. These dead cells then clog the pore opening, leading to a further oil build up. Even using too much moisturizer, foundation or sun screen can lead to clogged pores. And clogged pores cause blackheads to form.
What is baby acne?
It is thought that baby acne comes about as the result of two different causes.
- During pregnancy, women go through many hormonal changes and it is well known how hormonal changes contribute to acne in teens. Some trace hormones stay with the baby (naturally passed through the placenta from the mother to the baby) and help stimulate lung maturation among other things but at the same time can cause baby acne, when they are born, by stimulating the sebaceous glands, leading to extra sebum production. In this case, prevention of baby acne is impossible.
- Although still subject to studies, the second cause is thought to be because of certain medications or supplements taken by women during pregnancy and many dermatologists are behind this theory.
It should be a comfort to know that baby acne is very common and usually goes away in just a few weeks but sometimes lingers for longer, running into several months. Baby acne can be present at birth or it can show up when the baby is about two weeks old. It usually appears on the nose, the cheeks or perhaps the forehead, the chin or even on the back. The skin may also appear red and rough. Baby acne or neonatal acne (as it is sometimes known) can have the typical acne signs and symptoms of whiteheads, blackheads and pustules. It should be left alone without any excessive cleaning or product use unless it really persists and then you can see a dermatologist for advice.
Baby acne isn't pretty, but it is common and the good news is that it is temporary, affecting some twenty per cent of all newborn babies.
When the baby is calm and contented, the baby acne is quite mild in appearance but can become more noticeable if your baby is hot, fussing or crying. Sometimes the skin can be irritated by saliva, dribbled milk or even as a result of a harsh detergent used to wash his clothing and bedding. All of these irritations can be easily addressed. Do not allow any spit-up or milk to sit or dry on the baby's skin as these liquids can clog skin pores, resulting in the appearance of whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. Change to natural and fragrant-free detergents and fabric softeners to avoid any harsh chemical residues making the baby acne any worse.
Do not overdo the cleaning – just wash your baby's face gently with a mild or natural soap and water once a day before patting dry. No vigorous washing and scrubbing or using moisturizers and other creams and lotions because this can make baby acne worse. Baby acne is not going to worry your baby in the least, so try not to let it worry you.
Some parents might confuse baby acne with a regular rash or with the tiny white bumps that sometimes appear on the nose, chin or cheeks which are known as milia. Baby acne is more common in boy babies than in girls and, unlike regular rashes, baby acne is never found on the extremities or chest of a newborn baby.
What is back acne?
Our backs have one of the highest concentration of sebaceous glands, making them more susceptible to acne outbreaks.
It is also difficult to reach round to our backs so giving the area a really good clean can be more of a challenge. Sweat clogs the pores so if you are having a good workout at the gym or exercising in the great outdoors, it is a good idea to shower straight afterwards.
Acne on the bottom can appear too
Outbreaks of acne on the butt can be more difficult to treat than on the face because the skin there is tougher. Spots on the bottom can be more common than you might think. This is because there is more bacteria below the waist than above it. Acne on the butt is generally caused by the hair follicles becoming clogged and infected. The condition is known as follicultis. Constantly wearing tights or pantyhose does not help as clothing that is so close to the skin makes it sweaty, clogging the follicles.
How to avoid acne outbreaks
Here are some suggestions...
- Cleansing is top of the list to reduce latent bacteria on the skin’s surface, remembering to use warm water, natural products and a clean wash cloth two to three times a day.
- Lifestyle changes are important too such as drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water daily; taking plenty of vitamins A, C and E and zinc as well as ensuring your vitamin D levels are high; and including lots of leafy vegetables and fresh fruit in your diet.
- Going gluten free can be the most important step you take in tackling acne outbreaks.
- Here is the recipe for a turmeric face mask. We recommend protecting anything precious from the strong staining color of the turmeric ingredient and doing a skin test first by applying a small amount of the mask onto the inside of your arm and waiting a few minutes. You will need: one small glass bowl and a teaspoon; 1 teaspoon of turmeric; 1 teaspoon of liquid raw honey or regular honey plus ½ to 1 teaspoon of milk. Mix all three ingredients together in the glass bowl to a thick paste. Before you apply your face mask, you need to have a clean make-up-free complexion, an old shirt to cover your clothing and the means to safely secure all your hair away from your face. Use the back of the teaspoon to apply the paste all over your face while avoiding the eyes and mouth - but remembering to spread well beneath the eyes as this home remedy is ideal for reducing any dark circles. Let the paste dry for thirty minutes on your skin before removing with warm water and patting dry. Use your face mask for two nights running and then repeat again every two to three weeks for optimum benefits.
There are further lifestyle changes that can be made...
- Avoiding smoking and cutting out or cutting down on alcohol.
- Taking regular, moderate exercise brings oxygen to the cells, to ease stress and improve circulation.
- Detoxing reduces the impact of a polluted environment.
- Taking supplements can improve the skin from inside the body such Beta-carotene (which has been found to minimize any damage from the sun’s UVA rays) and Astaxanthin to help and improve skin moisture levels, smoothness, elasticity, fine wrinkles as well as spots or freckles, while at the same time acting as a natural sunscreen and even preventing sunburn.
- Eating fish like tuna and salmon that are loaded with omega-3 fatty acid. Skin cells are surrounded by a fatty membrane that protects them. When the cells are healthy, they are able to support the structure of the skin.
- Adding all “the colors of the rainbow” veggies – red to improve sun protection as tomatoes, peppers and beets contain the antioxidant lycopene which also increases collagen levels; dark green like spinach and kale which are rich in vitamin C with antioxidant properties to stabilize the messenger enzymes that break collagen down; and orange such as carrots and sweet potatoes that are rich in vitamin A to restore and regenerate damaged collagen.
- Look for those fruits rich in color too. Blackberries and raspberries combat free radicals (while simultaneously increasing collagen levels) and oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruits (rich in vitamin C) help amino acids—lysine and proline—convert to collagen.
- Mulberry fruit or juice has many benefits for the skin including spots and blemishes, and general rejuvenation through the process of melanin synthesis.
- Try to reduce stress as much as possible.
- Gentle icing on inflamed acne lesions such as cysts and nodules may also calm the skin down. Ice can reduce pain, swelling and redness. and those same principles apply for pimples. The emphasis is on gentle icing which can be achieved by placing one ice cube in a plastic bag and pressing it gently to the pimple for 5 minutes.
You can care for your skin with natural herbs...
- Green tea is one suggestion. It comes with antioxidants that can control sebum (oil) production, inhibit bacterial growth, and reduce inflammation. Make an infusion of the fresh or dried green tea leaves as a facial toner after cleansing with our Simply Cleansing Oil.
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a common and fragrant garden shrub with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, benefiting those with skin irritation and inflammation. You can use our own single Lavender Oil or you can use dried lavender flowers added to into a mixture of water and alcohol (or witch hazel) to make lavender water for toning the skin after cleansing.
Our own H-Acne Formula is a natural product that works by using established homeopathic ingredients in a revolutionary new topical application, helping to soothe the skin gently and safely without itching, burning or scarring.
Can my pet get acne?
You might be surprised to read that pet acne is a very common condition among animals. Acne in pets, as in humans, has various causes, such as stress, food allergies and contact allergies.
One of the main causes of acne in pets is plastic feeding bowls. These bowls collect dirt and bacteria in the cracks and scratches, which is transferred to your pet while feeding. It can also cross-contaminate to any other pets which may feed from the same bowls.
Pet acne starts as small oily black plugs which look a lot like blackheads. These may progress to itchy red bumps which can become infected. Although it is not a serious condition but in severe cases with infection can be very detrimental to your pet's health and well-being.
Whatever type and whatever age, acne is a skin condition that can be helped in different ways as we have indicated above. It might take a bit of time and effort but it will be worthwhile.