What Is Acne Anyway?

September 11, 2022

What IS Acne, Anyway?

We all know it when we see it, but most of us have no idea what’s actually going on in there.

Zits: They’re gross and unwelcome (yet occasionally horribly satisfying when popping), but there’s more happening beneath the surface than you might think.

What’s making my skin erupt, exactly?

“Acne forms around oil glands and hair follicles in the skin,” says Dr. Daniel Walker, a board-certified dermatologist with U.S. Dermatology Partners Fort Worth. “First, hair follicles become clogged and hormones (androgens) cause increased oil production. This can lead to increased proliferation of certain acne-causing bacteria with inflammation and redness.”

But why am I getting it?

Acne is incredibly common, affecting 40-50 million people annually in the US — most aged between 12 and 24, but a reasonable amount of adults in their 30s and 40s as well. Severe cystic acne is more common in boys and men. “Acne takes different forms throughout different stages of life, from mild blackheads and whiteheads (called comedones) to inflamed pustules to severe cystic acne,” says Walker. “There are likely some genetic factors that contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing acne, which may include the number, size, and productivity of oil glands.”

How can I avoid it, and do I have to quit eating cheese?

“Acne cannot always be avoided, which is why it is so common,” says Walker, adding that while the relationship between diet and acne remains somewhat controversial, there is some evidence that dairy and high-GI diets can increase the risk. As for treatments, “some effective non-prescription options include daily salicylic or glycolic acid washes, benzoyl peroxide washes or creams, or certain low-strength retinoid products like adapalene,” with a combination of these options often proving most effective. For more severe cases where scarring seems likely, dermatologists can offer more aggressive treatments.

Is it normal for me to spend all day watching zit-popping videos on YouTube?

You do you, buddy!

Avoid Popping Those Pimples!

Squeezing a zit is an invitation for red, blotchy skin and possible infections. But while estheticians can and do perform “extractions” (basically zit popping, but in a safe, sterile environment), realistically, you’re not going to make an appointment every time a whitehead arrives. That being the case, prevention is your best bet: Be sure to wash your face after any sweaty activity, as well as in the morning and before bed. If you still find yourself with a breakout, try applying a topical ointment containing two percent salicylic acid, which will dry out the pimple and encourage it to pop on its own. Hey, it sounds a lot better than “red, blotchy and infected,” right?

Oh FAQ: How Do I Shave the Back of My Neck?

1. “Start with the mirrors,” instructs Melanie Mari, owner and trained manscaper at Bare Skin Studio. “You’re going to need your bathroom mirror behind you and a hand mirror in front of you.

2. Place a finger where you want your hairline to be, to stop your razor going too far. “Normally, neck hair tapers inward,” says Mari. “I think you should shave against the grain here—the hair should be short and you shouldn’t need to go over the area excessively.” Bye, neck hair!

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