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We know it is there, many suffer from it…but what is acne?

If we look into how scientist define acne, they say that it is a chronic inflammatory disease of the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Very technical words that can even sound intimidating! But let’s look at them in order to understand it. 

We should check first what we like to call the ‘battle field’ where these pimples are happening, and that is in the hair follicles that we all have in our skin.  

Our skin contains lots of them, and they have sebaceous glands that continuously produce sebum, a kind of oily water. And that is actually good! The sebum keeps our skin moisturised and helps protect it against the external factors. But…. sometimes, the normally balanced system gets disrupted, and that is when the problems start. 

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The word chronic means that it lasts long. Those of us who have suffered from acne, we know that it is not something that passes in one week. It lasts, and it can last for years. One of the myths about acne is that it is just a teenage phase, but adult acne is real, and it is as annoying and painful as the one we suffer from when we are in high school.  

The word inflammatory is easier to understand. We know that acne means suffering from harmful bumps in our skin. And they are hurting because the body is actually having a battle against bacteria in the hair follicle and that is why this becomes inflamed! 

The process, step-by-step 

Let’s talk about the process step by step to understand how a hair follicle can go from ‘normal’ to inflamed and ready to ‘explode’. What causes this process? 

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Actually, we can’t just blame one single factor. There is a lot of things going on in our skin and not everything is 100% understood by the scientists. But what they agree on, is that the following factors have an effect: 

Excess of sebum
Excess secretion of sebum (giving us the unpleasant ‘shiny skin’ because the body is producing too much 

Plugging of pores
And here the surprise, it is not dirt that clogs our skin pores! That is just a myth! Cleansing your face 10 times per day won’t help you if you suffer from acne. Your pores clog because your skin produces a lot of cells, that prevents all the sebum produced to get out.  

Presence of Propionibacterium acnes, a skin bacterium that is present in the skin of all humans.  The difference is, that in patients suffering from acne, the blocked pores full of sebum make up the perfect habitat for the bacteria. So that’s where Propionibacterium acnes settles down and grows.  

This is the result of all the previous factors. Our body is quite smart, and it doesn’t like to have uninvited guests (bacteria)in its hair follicles, and the first reaction to fight them is to create an inflammation. That is translated into the redness, pain, swelling and even warmth in that area. The body will send white blood cells to fight them (the cells that act like the body police) and we all know the result. A ‘ready to explode’ pimple.  

For more information about acne, visit the following section of the web page to know more. 

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