Acne vulgaris or simply, acne is among the most common skin diseases among young women, although it may persist well into adulthood. It is difficult to provide a simple answer to the question ‘What is acne vulgaris?’ because acne vulgaris can be a condition of multiple, sometimes complex causes. It is this complexity that often makes this condition difficult to treat.
At its most basic level acne is a disease in which the pores of the skin become clogged with dead skin cells, oils produced by the sweat glands, and foreign matter such as grime or makeup. This provides an ideal environment for growth of bacteria that are normally present on the skin surface. It is this combination of obstructed pores and bacteria produces an inflammation that is responsible for the red, elevated, skin lesions that are the hallmark of this condition. Psychological issues, such as loss of self-esteem and maladjustment regarding issues of peer relationships are frequently encountered with in cases of acne.
Acne typically begins near, or with, the onset of puberty, when the bodies of both males and females begin to produce higher levels of the hormone testosterone. This is not surprising since testosterone causes the development of facial and bodily hair which, in turn, is associated with increased activity in the sweat glands that are a part of each skin pore.
Self-management of acne usually involves a combination of preventative and treatment strategies. In some cases, a single mode of treatment may be adequate but this is by far an exception rather than a rule.
The single greatest step toward minimizing the effects of acne is meticulous skin cleansing, particularly if makeup is used for school, work, or social purposes. Although there are a number of commercially-available “acne soaps,” there is little medical evidence to suggest that such products are more effective than regular use of a non-irritating, low residue facial soap. Use of alcohol or other chemicals for facial cleaning should probably be kept to a minimum, if not avoided entirely.
There are also a number of popular facial creams and ointments available for self-treatment of acne, with most such products containing aloe vera and/or vitamin E. While both products are effective, in controlled medical studies vitamin E has been shown to exhibit both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects when applied directly to the skin. Since inflammation and the buildup of free oxygen radicals is known to influence the development of scarring, vitamin E may be particularly useful.
Finally, the importance of a balanced diet and adequate rest cannot be overemphasized. There is an old medical saying: to the effect that “You can’t put healthy skin on an unhealthy body.” This is particularly true in acne vulgaris, where proper nutrition and balanced routine of exercise and rest will promote a healthy body and with it the best environment for healthy skin.
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