Acne and Clogged Pores
Statistics from the University of Maryland Medical Center website show that between 17 million and 45 million people suffer from acne. A number of myths exist about what causes breakouts and who gets them. Despite popular belief, eating chocolate and other junk food does not contribute to bad skin. The belief that people with acne have poor hygiene is also inaccurate. The most basic reason for acne is clogged pores.
Your skin contains small holes called pores. These pores contain a follicle canal lined with keratinocyte cells and a hair that leads to a sebaceous gland. Each sebaceous gland produces sebum, an oil-like material. Normally, when the sebaceous gland produces sebum, the oily substance travels through the follicle to the surface of your skin.
How Clogs Occur
Occasionally, another substance blocks sebum's path through the pilosebaceous follicle to your skin's surface. Common culprits include the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes and dead skin cells. This most often occurs when sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, says the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Causes of Clogs and Acne
The University of Maryland Medical Center cites a number of factors that contribute to clogged pores, such as genetics, hair and beauty products, hormones and medication. Using hair and beauty products that are oil-based or contain animal and vegetable fat can clog pores, especially if you fail to thoroughly remove those products. Allowing hair to touch the skin of your face can cause clogged pores if your hair is oily or full of products. Taking medications such as lithium and phenobarbital may contribute to skin problems. Sweat, friction from tight clothing and surging hormones are also factors. The menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause lead to increased acne for some women, according to womenshealth.gov.
When dead cells, sebum and bacteria clog pores, the blockage they create causes the skin surrounding it to swell. (See References 4) The result is a closed comedone, or whitehead. If the clogged follicle opens, the result is an open comedone, or blackhead. If the clogged follicle becomes inflamed, it leads to the formation of pimples, nodules and cysts. Pimples are pus-filled lesions close to the skin's surface, while nodules and cysts are deeper in the skin and can lead to scarring.
For treating clogged pores and acne, a regular routine of thorough cleansing with a gentle soap should be effective. Choose water-based and non-comedogenic beauty products. Avoid scrubbing or cleaning your skin too often, since this only aggravates acne. Salicylic acid, an over-the-counter treatment, unclogs pores by causing surface skin cells to shed. Another treatment, benzyoyl peroxide, fights acne-causing bacteria. Nodules and cysts may require treatment from a dermatologist, who can prescribe medications such as antibiotics and topical retinoids, according the to McKinley Health Center in Illinois.
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