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What is acne?


Acne vulgaris is the medical name for whiteheads, blackheads and pimples that can develop on the skin of your face, back and chest.


They are caused by blockage of the openings (pores) of the oil glands in the skin and the resulting inflammation of the blocked oil glands.


The most common cause are hormonal changes that occur with puberty, but it can also be affected by stress, lack of sleep or irregular hours of sleep, diet, and some cosmetic products and medications.


Your skin has oil glands, sweat glands and hair follicles:




Acne occurs in your oil glands.

When you reach puberty, the hormonal changes in your body that help you develop into an adult will cause your skin to change.  It will become thicker and more oily.


These hormones make your skin cells grow faster and your oil glands more active.


Cutibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria normally found in the oil glands, become more numerous and can cause inflammation.  Inflammation stimulates the skin cells lining the pores of your oil glands to grow even faster.


All of this can lead to the pores of the oil glands to become clogged with dead skin.



The effect of your body’s hormones and inflammation caused by bacteria can cause an overgrowth of skin cells and a build-up of dead skin in the openings of the oil glands:






The build-up of dead skin can eventually lead to a plug of dead skin in the pores.  These plugs are called whiteheads and blackheads:










In medical terms, these are called closed comedomes and open comedomes.


If the pores are completely blocked, oil can become backed-up and the whiteheads and blackheads can turn into pimples and pustules:





Pimples that are larger than 5mm across are called cysts or nodules.  These can stay and grow until they either burst or are absorbed by your body’s immune system.  When this happens, a temporary red or dark mark can remain for months, or if the damage is severe enough, a scar can develop.


Scars can take the form of a hole or depression in the skin, or a bump that sticks out of the skin.  Scars are permanent.




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