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Acne

 

Acne is a skin condition characterized by whiteheads, blackheads, and inflamed red pimples or "zits".  Acne is usually considered an adolescent affliction affecting up to 80 percent of teenagers. Although acne occurs most commonly in adolescent males, it can affect people of any age. Acne (acne vulgaris, common acne) is not just a problem for teenagers; it can affect people from ages 10 through 40. It is not unusual for women, in particular, to develop acne in their mid- to late-20s, even if they have not had breakouts in years (or ever).

Symptoms

Acne consists of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and deep cysts that appear mainly on the face and to a lesser extent on the chest, shoulders, buttocks and back. Acne is often worse during winter, improving during summer.

Causes

No one factor causes acne. Acne happens when oil (sebaceous) glands come to life around puberty, stimulated by male hormones from the adrenal glands of both boys and girls. Sebum (oil) is a natural substance which lubricates and protects the skin, and under certain circumstances, cells that are close to the surface block the openings of sebaceous glands and cause a buildup of oil underneath. This oil stimulates bacteria (which live on everyone's skin and generally cause no problems) to multiply and cause surrounding tissues to become inflamed.

Inflammation near the skin's surface produces a pustule; deeper inflammation results in a papule (pimple); deeper still and it's a cyst. If the oil breaks though to the surface, the result is a "whitehead." If the oil accumulates melanin pigment or becomes oxidized, the oil changes from white to black, and the result is a "blackhead." Blackheads are therefore not dirt, and do not reflect poor hygiene.

When the oil trapped in the whitehead or blackhead is forced into the deeper skin layers, an inflammatory reaction causes a red lump called a papule. If infection follows, pus collects and the classic pimple (pustule) is seen. When the inflammatory condition is severe, large, painful cysts may form.

Acne is associated with hormonal imbalance, and will typically develop during puberty when hormonal activity increases the size and activity of the sebaceous glands. Some women also experience acne as a component of pre-menstrual syndrome.

Acne can be aggravated by ineffective elimination from the body, which may be related to a build up of toxins in the system due to an inability of the liver to effectively break down circulatory toxins. It can also be initiated by food sensitivities, poor diet and stress.

Natural Therapies

  • Zinc is an essential mineral used for wound healing and the normal oil gland function of the skin. It is also involved in the maintenance of vitamin A levels, transport and usage; for protein synthesis, (particularly collagen synthesis); and to help maintain hormonal balance.
  • Beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A in the body. These two nutrients act as skin antioxidants, and may be of assistance in the treatment of acne, other skin conditions, and the healing of wounds.
  • Sulphur is traditionally indicated as a liver tonic to support the body's detoxification processes, and for a variety of skin conditions including acne which are associated with sluggish liver function
  • Echinacea has been extensively investigated and has been found to have a variety of actions on the immune system, including antibacterial and antiviral activity.

Lifestyle Factors

Make sure your skin care regime includes twice daily cleansing, toning and moisturising. Products containing anti-bacterial herbs such as tea tree oil to reduce infection, are ideal. It is also important to maintain moisture balance using an oil-free moisturiser. A clay mask once a week will remove dirt and tighten pores.

Proper nutrition and skin cleanliness, together with adequate rest, fresh air and sunlight, and drinking adequate amounts of purified water, are helpful in the treatment of acne.

Do not scrub the skin. Scrubbing stimulates growth of skin cells, aggravating the condition. Instead, try an antibacterial face wash. Choose oil-free cosmetics and ensure all makeup brushes and sponges are washed regularly. Keep your hands away from your face to avoid the spreading of acne.

Remedy

There are conflicting theories about direct dietary influences on acne.

The best approach is to adopt a healthy well balanced diet high in fiber, filtered water and fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid refined or processed foods, sugars and high-fat foods.

Regular exercise is great for your skin, as it improves your circulation and aids in the removal of toxins. Try brisk walking, jogging swimming or any active sport 3 - 4 times per week.

Important Notes

If acne is severe or deep, vigorous treatment is required to reduce scarring. For severe, deep lesions topical treatment is unsatisfactory. Consultation with your health professional is advised.

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