What is Acne? Acne affects up to three-quarters of us at least once in our lives between the ages of 12 and 30. Acne can affect the skin on the face, neck, back, and chest but can also be found anywhere on the body where there is skin. The skin is covered in millions of tiny hair follicles, called pores.

Woman with Acne on Chest and face

Woman with Acne on Chest and Face

How Does Acne Form?

It is not completely understood why, but these follicles (or pores) sometimes become blocked by dead skin cells. The oil from the sebaceous glands (sebum) which normally escapes to the surface gets trapped and bacteria called P.Acnes begin to grow. This causes swelling around the follicle and the formation of pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules, nodules and cysts we know as acne (medically acne vulgaris).

Acne Pimple Formation

Acne Pimple Formation

Acne commonly occurs during puberty when the sebaceous glands in the skin start to become more active. The increased activity in the sebaceous glands is triggered by testosterone produced by both sexes in the adrenal glands. Formation of blackheads and whiteheads:

what is acne - whiteheads and blackheads

what is acne – whiteheads and blackheads

The word acne comes from the Greek word acme meaning spot or point. This was mispelt in about 1835 and became known as acne.

The Two Types of Acne – Non-Inflamed and Inflamed

When a hair follicle gets blocked, it can either heal itself and become unplugged or it can form non-inflamed whiteheads and blackheads. Whiteheads and blackheads are usually verWhat is Acney small and do not form large pimples. These non-inflamed acne can then either become unplugged and heal up or the sebaceous gland can rupture inside the skin which causes inflamation and a visible red bump appears (pimple). Further inflamation can lead to nodules and cysts.

In the diagram to the left, the fair follicle becomes blocked and a blackhead is formed. Then the blackhead becomes inflamed and a red pimple forms.

Sometimes severe inflamation can occur and cysts or nodules can form. These types of acne can easily cause scarring and acne treatments should be prescribed by your doctor.

 

Types of Acne

Acne Vulgaris

mild acne vulgaris

Mild Acne Vulgaris

This type of acne is the most common and includes symptoms of whiteheads, blackheads, papules and pustules. Cases are classified from mild to severe.

Acne Conglobulata

Acne conglobulata is the most severe form of acne vulgaris. It is characterised by many interconnecting lesions including nodules and cysts. Deep scars are usually left by this type of acne. Although cases are very rare it affects males more often than females.

Acne Fulminans

Acne fulminans is a form of acne causing severe nodules and cysts but with the accompaniment of joint aches and a fever. Acne fulminans can cause scarring but usually symptoms only last for a year.

Acne Rosacea

Acne rosacea does not cause pimples and lesions but is characterised by a persistent flushing or red rash over areas of the face. See also what is acne rosacea.

rosacea treatment

Woman with Acne Rosacea#