June is Acne Awareness Month – Did you know that up to 85% of Australians will develop acne during their life with approximately 5% experiencing severe acne?
Perhaps you are confused by all the terms associated with acne? Here are the important words you should know, plus the key ingredients used to treat it.
A – Acne
Acne is a common chronic disorder affecting the hair follicle and sebaceous gland, in which there is expansion and blockage of the follicle and inflammation.
It’s an irritating skin problem caused when pores get plugged with sebum, which is skin’s natural oil. Acne bacteria love to multiply in these conditions, creating more and more debris inside the pore, until skin gets inflamed and acne breaks out. Acne bacteria is part of the skin’s microbiome, so it’s always lurking in and around our pores.
B – Blackhead
A small, black-tipped plug of sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells clogging a pore. Blackheads only partially plug the pore, so air can still get in, and the air oxidises the plug, turning the tip black.
C – Cyst
A dome-shaped lump deep under the skin filled with pus, is usually inflamed and painful, and can become infected and cause scarring.
A thickened secretion consisting of a clogged pore with a flesh-toned bump (whitehead) or a flat, rounded or slightly raised pore with dark contents (blackhead).
D – Dead Skin Cells
Cells that build up on the skin’s surface and act as a barrier so skin can’t absorb moisture from nourishing creams and lotions. They also block sweat glands, which can result in whiteheads, blackheads or acne.
E – Exfoliation
The process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. This can be done using topical skincare medications, chemicals, scrubs or medical instruments.
G – Gorgonian Extract
A botanical ingredient derived from the gorgonian plant (also known as sea whip), known to help minimize redness and inflammation in the skin.
H – Hormones
Chemical substances that circulate through the body and regulate cell and bodily functions.
Discoloration of the skin. In acne, it usually appears at the site of a pimple, and it can last indefinitely.
I – Inflammatory Acne
A red, inflamed, angry pimple with white or yellow pus in the centre. It can be slightly raised and tender to the touch.
L – Lesion
A pore that’s been damaged or undergone some abnormal structural change.
M – Macule
A lesion that’s a different colour from the surrounding skin as a result of old acne.
N – Nodule
A small, abnormal node, mass or lump lodged deep down in the skin. It’ll usually show up with severe acne and may appear as an inflamed, deep red bump that’s larger than a pimple. It can be painful and lead to scarring.
The really severe acne with all the nodules and/or cysts. The lesions are inflamed, they’re painful, they’re large, they’re full of pus, and they’re looking for an opportunity to leave a scar.
P – Pimple
Pimple is the typical name for a papule or pustule. These raised, reddish, tender spots tell you that a hair follicle is either inflamed or infected.
A small, inflamed, bump topped by a white or yellow pus-filled lesion that may be red at the base. Unlike a papule, pus is hanging out in the centre of this lesion. It too is also commonly known as a pimple.
R – Retinoid
Retinoids are a group of vitamin A derivatives that boost cell turnover, helping smooth skin, even out tone, and unclog pores. Retinol, Retinaldehyde and Adapalene are all retinoids, either synthetic or naturally derived from Vitamin A. Determining which is the best fit for your skin and your acne is best determined by a skin specialist.
S –Spot Treatment
Skin care medication used to treat individual acne lesions.
The glands that produce sebum. They secrete the oil to hair follicles, to lubricate the hair and skin. Most of your sebaceous glands are on your face, neck, chest, shoulders, upper arms and back.
The fatty oil that comes out of sebaceous glands to lubricate the hair and skin. It reaches the surface of your skin through your pores, unless too much of the stuff has clogged the pores up. Result: acne.
An acid found in a lot of over-the-counter acne treatment products which unclogs pores by dissolving dead skin cells inside hair follicles. It can also be used to stop new clogged pores (and subsequent zits) from forming.
A topical product people use on acne prone or oily skin to give pores an extra cleaning, since clean pores can look tighter and less noticeable. Also called astringent.
W – Whitehead
What a pore makes when it’s completely blocked with dead skin cells and sebum. Since no air can get into a completely plugged pore, it won’t get dark like a blackhead.
Z – Zit
AKA a small, inflamed lesion when they’re not calling it a pimple, a spot or an imperfection.
Author: Nela Plecic, Dermal Therapist