Skin Care: Severe Acne 101

severe acneWe all suffer from facial breakouts once in a while and look like an acne with a face. However, we don’t get alarmed unless things go from bad to worst. Before we know it, we’re already battling severe acne. But how severe is severe acne?

More than Just Skin Deep

Severe acne, also called cystic acne, is the most serious type of acne vulgaris. It is a common skin disease characterized by pimples, blackheads and whiteheads and scaly red skin. Face, upper chest and back are the most vulnerable to acne since they have compressed hair follicles. Acne often feels like they are more than just skin deep, and can be very painful too. It is also one of the causes of teenage depression due to low self-esteem.

Much to our dismay, severe acne often materializes during adolescence and continues to adulthood. An increase in testosterone, regardless of sex, is the culprit of acne in adolescents. Usually it decreases until age 25 and lessens over time. According to Brown University, around 17 million Americans are likely to have acne.

Types of Severe Acne

Acne is sometimes difficult to categorize but here are the four main types of severe acne:

  • Acne Conglobata – the chronic and severe form of acne. Inflammatory swellings form around several blackheads and increase in size until it erupts and releases pus.
  • Acne Fulminans – an abrupt onset of a highly caustic inflammation accompanied with fever and aching of joints.
  • Nodulocystic Acne – a type of severe acne characterized by cysts or inflammatory nodules. Cysts that are close together may combine resulting to acne conglobata.
  • Gram-negative folliculitis – an irritation of follicles caused by bacterial infection. This often results from long-term usage of antibiotic for treating acne.

Its Causes

Inflammation of the hair follicles and increase in testosterone are the common causes of severe acne. When puberty hits, several hormones increase including testosterone. This causes sebaceous glands to produce sebum in the skin. When the sebum combines with the dead skin cells, it plugs the pore which results to swelling of the follicle and the skin around it.

Several factors contribute to high risk of having severe acne. This includes age, genes and familial traits, skin type, hormonal changes and diet.

Treatments: Medical and Natural

There are three possible ways to eradicate severe acne: medication, medical procedures and natural alternatives.

  • Medication – Acne is often treated with Benzoyl peroxide which eliminates the P. acnes bacteria. However it can cause dermatitis and increased sensitivity to the sun.  Antibiotics and antiseptics are also used but they are known for generating bacterial resistance which make them less effective.
  • Procedures – Dermabrasion is the common medical procedure for treating acne. The surface of the affected skin is removed through sanding. Comedo extraction is also another type of procedure wherein the whiteheads and blackheads are physically removed using a metal loop and sharp needle. This is not advisable since it can cause scarring when done incorrectly.
  • Natural alternatives – Avoiding sugary foods is one way to prevent acnes. As substitution for ointments, try an application of tea tree oil which is as effective as Benzoyl peroxide but without the side-effects. It is also known to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

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