Whiteheads & Acne
Acne is a skin condition that plagues many people during their teenage years, although it can also occur in older people. Three out of four teenagers have acne to some extent, according to MedLine Plus. No matter what your age, an eruption of pimples or whiteheads on your face can be embarrassing and even painful. Both over-the-counter and prescription medication can be used to treat acne and reduce outbreaks.
Acne occurs when the pores in your skin become clogged. A pore is an opening in the skin that contains a hair follicle and an oil gland. The gland produces sebum, a special kind of oil that helps removes dead skins cell and lubricates the skin. If too much oil is produced, the pore becomes clogged and bacteria and dirt can build up over the opening, causing inflammation. Acne is most noticeable on the face, but can also appear on the arms, legs, shoulders, buttocks or trunk.
If a pore is plugged by a white layer of dead cells and oil, the pimple is called a whitehead. Blackheads are characterized by a dark appearance to the plug. Whiteheads and blackheads occur when the oil is blocked close to the skin's surface and there is only a small amount of inflammation. Deeper inflammation results in a red or pink pimple. If the inflammation penetrates the skin even deeper, a pus-filled cyst or nodule can develop. Cysts and nodules are firm, red pimples and tend to be painful. Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Teenagers are more likely to have acne than other age groups due to increased sebum production during adolescence. Fluctuating hormone levels during menstruation, pregnancy or times of stress can contribute to the formation of acne, as can taking birth control pills. Using greasy sunscreen, moisturizers or makeup can clog pores and worsen or cause acne. Some drugs, including steroids and those containing the hormones testosterone or estrogen, can cause acne.
Over-the-counter creams, pads and ointments containing benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and salicylic acid can be applied to the skin to dry out pimples, kill bacteria and promote peeling. If over-the-counter medications are not helpful in reducing pimples, your doctor may suggest prescription creams or medications. Oral antibiotics may be used if other treatment methods don't reduce acne. Oral antibiotics may be combined with treatment with topical medications. If you suffer from particularly large acne lesions, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection to help the lesion heal and reduce pain. Isotretinoin may be prescribed if you have severe cystic acne. Because the drug can cause severe birth defects, it is necessary to use a reliable means of birth control when taking isotretinoin.
Removing as much oil as possible from your face can help reduce outbreaks of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and cysts. Cleaning the face daily with a mild cleanser can remove excess oil and keep the pores open. Harsh soaps should be avoided, as these products may dry out and irritate the skin and worsen your condition. Washing your hair daily can also be helpful in reducing oil on your face, particularly if you have oily hair. Oil from the hair can migrate to your face and contribute to clogged pores.
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