Puberty signals the onset of many changes. Some of them, including the transformation from childhood to adolescence, can be an awkward but pleasant process, but others can be downright troublesome. Among the latter is a problem many a teenager has stressed over—acne. Although the mere thought of this condition and the scars it leaves is enough to make the average adolescent cringe, it is natural and harmless for the most part, and with the right steps, can even be treated and prevented.

What is acne? acne

Acne is a type of skin disease characterized by the swelling of hair follicles. Known medically as Acne Vulgaris, it results in the presence of pimples on the skin. The condition can occur in almost all areas of the body, although it usually appears on your back, arms, and most especially, your face.

Acne often manifests among teenagers as the skin starts to mature and produce more oil or sebum. It is often believed that acne gradually disappears after some time and should be allowed to pass. While mild cases can be treated with topical solutions, severe cases should be addressed by a medical professional to prevent exacerbation and the appearance of scars.

How does acne develop?

Acne develops from comedones (comedo when singular), hair follicles that have been clogged with dead skin cells and sebum. For this reason, very oily skin is almost always a precursor of acne.

Many factors can lead to acne. Ingrown hairs are common, especially among males. Hormones, or the imbalance of which, can contribute to the likelihood of you developing acne. The presence of dirt, dust, and germs may exacerbate the problem, as well as using beauty and skin products that clog the pores. Specific activities, such as engaging in sports, can lead to the development of acne-related blemishes.

What characterizes acne?

Pimples are not the only blemishes that appear when you have acne. You may also have any of the following:

Blackheads. These are comedones that are partially exposed due to an opening on the surface of the skin. Contrary to what many believe, blackheads do not get their color from the presence of dirt, but from the irregular way they reflect light. They can be easily removed with the right tools and can be treated with topical medications.

Whiteheads. These are comedones that are not exposed and are kept covered by oil or skin cells. They appear as tiny, whitish dots on the skin, hence their name. As in the case of blackheads, the right tools and medication are all it takes to eliminate whiteheads.

Papules. These are inflamed comedones that appear as red or pink bumps on the skin. They are often sensitive to the touch and may even be painful when pricked. Squeezing them is not advised as this can aggravate the inflammation and cause scarring.

Pustules. These are often considered worse than papules. They look like big whiteheads, but the bumps are surrounded by a red ring. Squeezing or pricking them will reveal white or yellow pus. You should not do this as it would cause the development of scars or dark spots on your skin.

Nodules. These are large, inflamed bumps that develop deep within the skin. They are firm to the touch and are often painful. Using over-the-counter medication is often ineffective against nodules, so they are best addressed by a doctor.

Cysts. Like nodules, cysts are considered as symptoms of severe acne. These are large, inflamed lesions that look and feel like boils. They are painful and occur deep within the skin. When you develop cysts, it’s best not to try to treat it yourself and instead, seek the assistance of a doctor.

How do you treat acne?

The first step in treating acne is identifying its severity. Different techniques are used depending on how bad your acne is.

Mild acne. This category is often characterized by the appearance of “minor” blemishes, such as whiteheads and blackheads, although the occasional papules and pustules fall within this section. Over-the-counter topical medication, available in most drug stores, are considered highly effective in this stage.

Moderate acne. The presence of a significant number of inflamed bumps, as well as blackheads, whiteheads, and lesions,  can be signs of moderate acne. Conventional topical solutions may not be a big help in this category. Patients are usually provided prescription medication to address the problem.

Severe acne. This is characterized by the presence of many nodules and cysts, leaving the skin red or purple. Prompt action is needed to reduce the inflammation, mitigate pain, and minimize scarring. Corticosteroid injections are often used to address the problem.

Your doctor may conduct tests to determine the cause of your acne and may provide alternative solutions. They may prescribe antibiotics for certain cases or birth control pills for hormone-related acne. Laser and other forms of light-assisted treatments, as well as chemical peels, are also used to counter bacteria or clear the skin.

How do you prevent acne?

Keeping your skin clean is one of the best ways to prevent acne. If you have long hair, make sure to clean it consistently. This eliminates germs and foreign substances that can clog your pores or worsen inflammations.  That said, it is advised that you use non-comedogenic beauty products instead of conventional ones. These do not clog your pores and help you avoid pimples.

If you engage in sports and activities that cause you to sweat, be sure to clean yourself immediately after you perspire. Keep your sports attire and equipment, especially those that make regular contact with your skin, clean. Wash your towels, pillow covers, and bed sheets regularly, too.

Keep your skin hydrated by applying moisturizer and drinking lots of water. This will help you control sebum better. To complete your anti-acne regimen, avoid overly fatty and sugary foods and consume a healthy diet composed of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

Acne is harmless and is a natural step in a process that happens to everyone. Therefore, there is little reason to be bothered by it, especially when you know how to address and prevent it.