by Rebekah Scott
(last updated December 4, 2009)
Because the presence of acne causes so many negative feelings, as soon as problem areas pop up it's tempting to rush out and try every acne treatment on the market. But don't get out your credit card just yet. First, understand what causes acne.
As part of its regular functions, sebaceous glands inside of hair follicles produce an oily substance called sebum. Though you may think that oil could do nothing good for your skin, sebum serves the necessary purpose of keeping hair and skin moisturized. The production of sebum is regulated by certain hormone levels that increase during the teen years, and then drop off during the beginning of the twenties. This explains why acne seems to affect more teenagers than adults.
When everything is working properly, sebum leaves the hair follicle and spreads out onto the skin and down the hair shaft. However, in some cases sebum and other substances such as dead skin, dirt, and bacteria become trapped in the hair follicle, and that is where the trouble begins.
As these substances become trapped in the hair follicle, pimples such as white heads or blackhead begin to appear, and may be followed by the trademark red and swollen areas that are commonly associated with acne. Knowing this basic information, the first logical step to treating acne is to prevent sebum and impurities from becoming trapped in the hair follicle in the first place. Believe it or not, gently cleansing the area no more than twice a day with a mild over-the-counter face wash is the most recommended way to do this. Now it's time to hit the drugstore.
Many dermatologists agree that whatever creams or solutions that are used, it's good to look for a products that contain benzoyl peroxide, an antibiotic, and a moisturizer. The peroxide helps to break apart oil repositories, while the antibiotic fights bacteria. A moisturizer is also key because it will help replace the moisture that was stripped away by the cleansing agents.
Just as important as what should be done to treat acne is what shoudn't. Excessive washing will only dry the skin out and stimulate sebaceous glands to produce more oil. The more oil there is, the more likely it will become trapped in the hair follicle. Scrubbing your face will irritate infected areas, and may cause the walls of infected hair follicles to break down under pressure, thus causing bacteria to spread to other areas on the face.
And of course, the golden rule for any skin care regimen is to never, ever pop those pesky pimples. This may not only make the problem worse, it will more than likely lead to permanent scarring. Though you may be in a rush to see blemishes disappear, patience is a key factor in the fight against acne.
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