What Is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition in which hair follicles and sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands under the skin) clog up, resulting in pimples.

Normally, dead skin cells are shed when they rise to the surface of the pore. If the body is producing a large amount of sebum (oil that keeps our skin moist), the dead skin cells can get stuck inside the pore, causing a whitehead or blackhead. If the p. acnes bacterium that lives on our skin also gets trapped inside the pore, it causes inflamed pimples to break out.

Acne can happen to people of all ages and races, although it is most common in puberty, when changing hormone levels cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. It’s estimated that 40 to 50 million Americans have acne at any given time.

Acne can be found in two forms:

  • Non-inflammatory whiteheads or blackheads: These are caused when oil, dead skin cells and bacteria block the hair follicles.
  • Inflammatory pimples: These pimples form when bacteria from the skin begin to grow inside the hair follicles and cause inflammation. They include:
    • Papules (tender, raised bumps)
    • Nodules (solid, painful lumps beneath the surface)
    • Pustules (pimples that are red on the bottom and have pus on the top)
    • Cysts (deep, pus-filled lumps)

Acne can be triggered or aggravated by hormones, medications and carbohydrate-rich foods.

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