The pimples are the result of an inflammation in the skin and usually focus on the face, chest, shoulders or the back . Although it can appear at any age, acne is more common during adolescence, when the increase in hormone levels stimulates the work of the sebaceous glands.

Normally, these glands manufacture a type of fat essential for skin protection. This oily secretion, along with dead cells, passes through the hair follicles (holes where the hairs come out) and ends up eliminated. But, if the production is excessive, part of that sebum is retained, clogging the pores. When this happens, the oily build-up attracts bacteria to the site, especially Proprionibacterium acnes.

This microorganism releases toxic substances that irritate the skin. To stop it, defense cells are recruited and trigger an inflammatory reaction. The result is seen in the mirror: blackheads are formed, which can increase in volume and take on a reddish color – more serious cases turn into abscesses with pus.

Signals and symptons

– Itching and irritation in the affected region
– Black spots (blackheads mark the initial stage or the mildest type of acne)
– Pimples (white, rounded spots, with a reddish area around)
– Pustules (at a more advanced stage of the disease, appear lumps with pus)
– Abscesses (more serious complication of pimples and pustules)

Risk factors

– Puberty (because of increased levels of sex hormones)
– Menstrual period (also due to hormonal variation)
– Oily skin
– Polycystic ovary syndrome
– Thyroid disorders
– Chronic stress
– Medicines such as corticosteroids
– Excessive sun exposure
– Sweating in excess
– Use of inappropriate facial creams
– Genetic predisposition

Prevention

As acne is linked to the excess production of fat on the skin and the action of bacteria, some measures that contain this set of factors help to prevent the problem. Knowing how to measure the time of exposure to the sun is one of them. Ultraviolet rays even have an antibacterial effect, so staying in the open for a while helps dry your pimples. But exaggeration, in turn, stimulates oiliness, attracting microbes. For this reason, caution is advised when sunbathing, and no use of oily sunscreens.

Keeping the skin clean, avoiding the accumulation of pollution and residues of creams, prevents clogged pores. The ideal is to clean with a facial soap at least in the morning and at night. But be careful: washing too much can cause the so-called rebound effect. The body understands that some external factor is putting an end to the protective fat and for that reason it stimulates an overproduction of sebum, worsening blackheads and whiteheads.

Women should pay attention to makeup. Some cosmetics overload the skin and contribute to the appearance of acne. It is worth opting for oil free, fat free products. And remove everything before bed.

Balanced food also comes into this story. Although there are no studies proving that certain foods are responsible for the appearance of these unwanted spots on the skin, it is observed that, in some people, very caloric and fatty foods are reflected in an increase in oiliness in the skin.

The diagnosis

At the consultation, the dermatologist assesses the general condition of the skin and makes the patient’s history in order to detect the risk of other diseases being responsible for the presence of blackheads and pimples – such as polycystic ovaries and thyroid dysfunctions, which break the hormonal balance. Therefore, it is necessary to rule out such possibilities before orienting the treatment.

The treatment

In milder forms of acne, it is usually sufficient to wash the area with mild soap, once or twice a day. Then, creams or lotions prescribed by the dermatologist are used, with substances such as retinoic acid, which help to unclog the pores. If the doctor considers it necessary, he will also indicate an oral antibiotic to contain the action of the bacteria.

In the most severe cases, with the presence of pus and inflammation and when the previous alternatives have failed, it is possible to resort to the use of isotretinoin, a medication that inhibits the production of sebaceous glands. But this feature, it is said, causes side effects such as dryness of the lips and skin in general, muscle pain and even changes in the liver.

It therefore requires medical monitoring. Not to mention that during treatment, sun, alcoholic beverages and – most importantly – pregnancy are prohibited, because the drug causes fetal malformation. To eliminate skin marks caused by acne, dermatologists can employ methods such as peeling, microdermabrasion and laser.