Acne is a very common skin complaint, especially amongst adolescents, with up to 80% of people suffering with the condition at some time during their life.
What is Acne?The skin contains many tiny oil glands (sebaceous glands), which are more plentiful around the fine hairs and hair follicles on the face. If these glands become infected and inflamed, acne can develop.
Causes of AcneThe oils in the sebaceous glands are called sebum; during times of hormonal change, the production of sebum is increased, therefore those most at risk of developing acne are teenagers, pregnant women and at certain times during the menstrual cycle. There is also evidence to suggest that there may be environmental contributory factors, such as pollution or strong heat and that some medications and beauty products can cause acne as a side-effect.
SymptomsAcne begins with red spots that can be tender to the touch. If left to develop with no intervention, they can become infected as the gland constricts causing the oil to accumulate in ‘pockets’, and produce harmful bacteria. If spots do develop, never squeeze or pick them as this can spread the infection to other areas and can cause scarring which may be permanent.
Preventing AcneThere are many ways to help prevent acne, but for some the hormonal changes are so strong that an outbreak may be unavoidable and need specialist treatment.
Washing and MoisturisingWashing twice daily with a mild cleansing agent should help keep oils under control. Rinse with warm, not hot water and pat dry with a clean towel. Avoid scrubbing the face as this can irritate the skin and spread bacteria around which can settle in the deeper layers exposed by the irritation.
Use an oil-free moisturiser twice weekly, not daily, and ensure that it is suitable for your skin type. If in any doubt, the beauty therapist in your local department store should be trained to assist you in finding out your skin type and help in making the right selection of product.
DietThe idea that acne is caused by a diet high in sugar and fats is now out-dated. However, a diet high in vitamin A can help reduce the production of the sebum that causes oily build-up in the skin. Drink plenty of water to help keep skin naturally hydrated and to flush toxins through the system.
Zinc is thought to contain high anti-oxidant levels which may help to reduce the incidence of acne; nuts, whole grains and seeds are all good food sources of zinc, so try to include them daily into your diet, especially at times of hormonal change.
- Change your pillowcase regularly to prevent the transfer of oils and bacteria to your face.
- Remove make-up every night before bed to allow the skin to breathe and rejuvenate.
- Keep long hair tied back in order to help stop the transfer of hair oils onto the face; acne is especially found on the forehead under long fringes.
- Try to avoid touching the face with the hands; the hands harbour many millions of bacteria due to the tasks they perform and these bacteria can transfer to the skin with the possibility of carrying infections.
- Avoid stress as being ‘stressed’ can increase the production of the hormone responsible for the production of sebum.
- Research suggests that a weekly facemask with a honey base is beneficial as honey contains substances that help destroy bacteria in the skin.