Simply put - skin cells, sebum and hair can clump together into a plug, this plug gets infected with bacteria, resulting in a swelling. A pimple starts to develop when the plug begins to break down.
Various types of pimples
Whiteheads - remain under the skin and are very small.
Blackheads - clearly visible, they are black and appear on the surface of the skin. Remember that a blackhead is not caused by dirt. Scrubbing your face vigorously when you see blackheads will not help.
Papules - visible on the surface of the skin. They are small bumps, usually pink.
Pustules - clearly visible on the surface of the skin. They are red at their base and have pus at the top.
Nobules - clearly visible on the surface of the skin. They are large, solid pimples. They are painful and are embedded deep in the skin.
Cysts - clearly visible on the surface of the skin. They are painful, and are filled with pus. Cysts can easily cause scars.
What causes acne?
All acne is a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit, which is made up of a hair follicle, sebaceous gland, and a hair. These units are found everywhere on the body except on the palms, soles, top of the feet, and the lower lip. The number of pilosebaceous units is greatest on the face, upper neck, and chest. Sebaceous glands produce a substance called sebum, which is responsible for keeping the skin and hair moisturized. During adolescence sebaceous glands enlarge and produce more sebum under the influence of hormones, also called androgens. After about age 20, sebum production begins to decrease.
Hormonal activity, such as menstrual cycles and puberty, may contribute to the formation of acne. During puberty, an increase in male sex hormones called androgens cause the follicular glands to grow larger and make more sebum. Use of anabolic steroids may have a similar effect. Several hormones have been linked to acne: the androgens testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), as well as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I).
Development of acne vulgaris in later years is uncommon, although this is the age group for rosacea, which may have similar appearances. True acne vulgaris in adult women may be a feature of an underlying condition such as pregnancy and disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome or the rare Cushing's syndrome. Menopause-associated acne occurs as production of the natural anti-acne ovarian hormone estradiol fails at menopause. The lack of estradiol also causes thinning hair, hot flushes, thin skin, wrinkles, vaginal dryness, and predisposes to osteopenia and osteoporosis as well as triggering acne (known as acne climacterica in this situation).
The tendency to develop acne runs in families. For example, school aged boys with acne often have other members in their family with acne. A family history of acne is associated with an earlier occurrence of acne and an increased number of retentional acne lesions.
While the connection between acne and stress has been debated, scientific research indicates that "increased acne severity" is "significantly associated with increased stress levels." The National Institutes of Health (USA) list stress as a factor that "can cause an acne flare." A study of adolescents in Singapore "observed a statistically significant positive correlation […] between stress levels and severity of acne." It is also not clear whether acne causes stress and thus perpetuates itself to some extent.
Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is the anaerobic bacterium species that is widely concluded to cause acne, though Staphylococcus epidermidis has been universally discovered to play some role since normal pores appear colonized only by P.acnes. Regardless, there are specific clonal sub-strains of P.acnes associated with normal skin health and others with long-term acne problems. It is as yet inconclusive whether any of these undesirable strains evolve on-site in the adverse conditions or are all pathogenically acquired, or possibly either depending on the individual patient. These strains either have the capability of changing, perpetuating, or adapting to, the abnormal cycle of inflammation, oil production, and inadequate sloughing activities of acne pores. At least one particularly virulent strain, though, has been circulating around Europe for at least 87 years. In vitro, resistance of P. acnes to commonly used antibiotics has been increasing, as well.
A high glycemic load diet is associated with worsening acne. There is also an association between the consumption of milk and the rate and severity of acne. Other associations such as chocolate and salt are not supported by the evidence. However, products with these ingredients often contain a high glycemic load
Symptoms of acne
Acne commonly appears on the face and shoulders, but it may also occur on the trunk, arms, legs, and buttocks.
Crusting of skin bumps
Papules (small red bumps)
Redness around the skin eruptions
Scarring of the skin
Whiteheads What can make acne worse?
Menstrual cycle - Girls and women with acne tend to get it worse one or two weeks before their menstrual period arrives. This is probably due to hormonal changes that take place. Some people say they eat more chocolate during this time and wonder whether there may be a connection. However, experts believe the worsening acne is not due to chocolate, but rather to hormonal changes.
Anxiety and stress - mental stress can affect your levels of some hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn can make acne worse. Again, stress can make some people binge-eat. Experts believe the culprits are most likely the hormone levels, rather than the binge-eating.
Hot and humid climates - when it is hot and humid we sweat more. This can make the acne worse.
Oil based makeups - moisturizing creams, lubricating lotions, and all makeup that contain oil can speed up the blocking of your pores.
Greasy hair - some hair products are very greasy and might have the same effect as oil based makeup. Hair products with cocoa butter or coconut butter are examples.
Squeezing the pimples - if you try to squeeze pimples your acne is more likely to get worse, plus you risk scarring. Signs and tests
Your doctor can diagnose acne by looking at your skin. Testing is usually not needed.
Home Treatment for Acne
Soap will help remove skin oil and will decrease the number of bacteria living on the skin.
If there are pimples on the back, a backbrush or washcloth should be used.
Greases and creams on the skin may aggravate the problem.
Diet is not an important factor in most cases, but if certain foods tend to aggravate the problem, avoid them.
There is scant evidence that chocolate aggravates acne, despite popular belief.
Do not pick or squeeze acne lesions, which ruptures glands and spreads sebum into the skin, increasing symptoms.
Makeup, greasy hair preparations, or tight sweatbands can plug ducts of glands and increase comedone formation. Avoid these if possible.
An abrasive soap maybe used from one to three times daily to reduce further oiliness in the skin and remove the keratin plugs from the follicles.
Medications containing benzoyl peroxide are now widely available without prescription. Use it as directed and can be used in mild acne cases only.
No acne treatment works immediately. Topical acne preparations work by unplugging glands. You must use them consistently to make them effective.
For severe cases please see your Homeopath.
Phototherapy; Blue and red light
Light exposure has long been used as a short-term treatment for acne. Recently, visible light has been successfully employed to treat mild to moderate acne (phototherapy or deep penetrating light therapy) - in particular intense violet light (405–420 nm) generated by purpose-built fluorescent lighting, dichroic bulbs, LEDs or lasers. Used twice weekly, this has been shown to reduce the number of acne lesions by about 64% and is even more effective when applied daily. The mechanism appears to be that a porphyrin (Coproporphyrin III) produced within P. acnes generates free radicals when irradiated by 420 nm and shorter wavelengths of light. Particularly when applied over several days, these free radicals ultimately kill the bacteria. Since porphyrins are not otherwise present in skin, and no UV light is employed, it appears to be safe, and has been cleared for marketing by the U.S. FDA.
Homeopathy for acne
For successful treatment emotional and mental symptoms should be traced out. After getting a complete picture from physical and mental generals a constitutional medicine is prescribed. I am going to list out some remedies which have the symptoms of acne. You cannot take any homeopathic medicines without your homeopaths advice.
ANTIMONIUM TARTARICUM -- Tartrate of Antimony & Potash
Obstinate cases of acne with the formation of large red pustules that are tender to the touch. The eruption leaves a bluish-red mark. This remedy can be used for small pox and warts, also. Person needing this remedy may be irritable. Better - sitting erect; from eructation and expectoration.
Worse - in evening; lying down at night; milk; sour things; warmth; damp, cold weather.
ARSENICUM ALBUM - Arsenious Acid
Skin is dry, rough, scaly. Eruptions itch and burn and the person is restless and chilly. Condition is worse with cold applications. This remedy may also be used for Psoriasis. Person needing this remedy takes frequent sips of liquid; prefers hot liquid. Better - from heat; having head elevated; warm drinks. Worse - wet weather; after midnight; cold; cold food and drink; seashore; right side.
KALI BROMATUM -- Bromide of Potash
Itchiness worse on chest, shoulders, and face. This remedy is also used for Psoriasis. Person is restless during sleep and has unpleasant dreams. Better - when occupied either mentally or physically .
LACHESIS – Bushmaster Skin has bluish purplish appearance. Face may also be reddish purple. Better - from discharges; warm applications. Worse - after sleep, on waking in the morning. Lachesis sleeps into an aggravation; left side; spring; warm bath; hot drinks; cannot stand anything around throat or waist.
NUX VOMICA -- Poison Nut Acne, skin red and blotchy. Skin is burning hot, especially the face, but needs to keep covered or else they get chilly. The person needing Nux Vomica is usually thin, quick, active, nervous and irritable. Does a lot of mental work and leads a sedentary life. Indulges in excesses like coffee, stimulants, wine, etc. Better - from a nap if allowed to finish it; in the evening; from rest; damp wet weather. Worse - morning; after eating; touch; mental exertion; stimulants; dry weather; cold.
RHUS TOXICODENDRON -- Poison Ivy Skin is red, itchy, painful, swollen. Itching is intense. Burning eczematous eruptions with tendency to scale formation. Better - warm, dry weather; motion; extremely hot bathing; walking; change of position; rubbing; stretching. Worse - during sleep; cold, wet, rainy weather and after rain; at night; during rest; lying on back or right side.
SANGUINARIA CANADENSIS -- Blood Root Acne with scanty menses. Red, blotchy eruptions. Burning and itching. Better - acids; sleep; darkness. Worse - sweets; right side; motion; touch; heat.
SULPHUR IODATUM -- Iodide of Sulphur Papular eruptions on face, cold sores on lips, boils on neck, barber's itch, weeping eczema. Acne suppurates. Itching. Better - expectoration; cool air; standing; winter. Worse - exertion; lying on right side; before storms; night; morning; leaning forward; rising; stooping.
Ignatia also can be given for acne.