The truth about acne: hormones, diet and hygiene
Acne vulgaris is a common chronic skin disease involving blockage and/or inflammation of pilosebaceous units (hair follicles and their accompanying sebaceous gland). Acne can appear as lesions on the face, back and chest. There are many myths circulating about acne vulgaris—its causes and its treatment—and although some may have a grain of truth, the explanation may not be relevant to what is causing you problems.
Hormones. Acne and skin problems normally start when we enter into puberty, and hormonal imbalance is one of the greatest factors influencing the skin—in males the increased secretion of testosterone is a major influencing factor in the cause of seborrhea (oily skin). When we have an increase of hormones—estrogen and testosterone, the female and male hormones—our skin is programmed to start activating the sebaceous glands and more oil is produced. It must be kept in mind that both males and females have both these hormones—in males testosterone is the major player while estrogen is dominant in females. This can result in skin problems that are difficult to manage.
Bacteria. The build-up of dead skin cells in the sebaceous follicle is also an important factor in the creation of acne vulgaris, since instead of shedding and exiting the follicle, the dead skin tends to hang around and get bound together with the sebum, which then plugs the follicle and in so doing swells up and enlarges the pore, creating skin problems. On top of this, bacteria starts to multiply and inflammation sets in, and should this follicle spill its content unchecked, the surrounding tissue will also become infected. Acne flare-ups are also common in women when menstruating or during pregnancy, when hormone levels are higher.
Diet. It is an old belief that French fries, pizzas, chocolate, cake, pastries etc are the cause of acne, but medical science has disputed this fact. Please bear in mind that it is wise to eat sensibly when wishing to combat acne vulgaris and other skin problems. A well balanced diet, with a healthy inclusion of fresh fruit and vegetables, coupled with adequate water (water—not sodas, juice, coffee or tea) will most definitely help your skin, and is also a good foundation for general good health.
Hygiene. People suffering from severe acne are sometimes under the misguided impression that it is due to their lack of hygiene, that they "contracted"acne and they then go forth and clean with such vigor that they damage and stress their skin even more. Although hygiene and regular cleansing is paramount to prevent the spread of infection—it is not normally the lack of hygiene which causes acne vulgaris as such. During puberty the skin in most individuals becomes more oily due to hormonal factors, and pores also enlarge, and although proper cleaning,
with a good quality pH controlled cleanser, without excessive chemicals and harsh ingredients, is required to keep the skin clean and to help prevent further spread of acne and pimples, it must be done in a sensible and responsible way.
Stress. Although modern science does not support the idea that stress can lead to acne, it is surely a truth that stress aggravates skin problems and that flare-ups happen when a person is under extra stress.
Sex. This myth has become less popular, but it was once thought that as soon as you become sexually active that acne would clear up. There is no truth in this—it is merely a myth.
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