September is Acne Awareness Month

September is Acne Awareness Month | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Acne is a common skin condition that affects as many as 5.6 million Canadians. Among those cases, 80 to 90 percent are teenagers, while it also affects 20 to 30 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 40. While acne is often referred to as “pimples”, it’s usually more complex than that. In fact, there are as many as three different subtypes and six different types of acne that one can be diagnosed with, including the following:

• Comedonal acne
• Inflammatory acne
• Cystic acne

• Whiteheads
• Blackheads
• Papules
• Pustules
• Nodules
• Cysts

Whiteheads: This type of acne falls under the subtype of comedonal acne, which is one of the most common forms to be diagnosed with. Comedonal acne occurs when excess oil and dirt becomes trapped underneath the hair follicles. Whiteheads will either appear on the skin as white or skin-coloured bumps that can be small or medium in size.

Blackheads: Similar to whiteheads, blackheads also form as a result of clogged hair follicles and can also appear to have a slight bump to them. Although unlike whiteheads, which are covered with skin, blackheads are open (which is what gives them their black or dark appearance.) Most people think that blackheads form as a result of dirt. However, this isn’t the case. Instead, they are formed as a result of oxidized melanin.

Papules: These, too, fall under the comedonal acne subtype. Papules develop as a result of excess dead skin cells in addition to oil clog the pores, and can accumulate pus resulting in skin-coloured, small bumps known as comedones which can potentially rupture and become inflamed.

Pustules: Pustules look like classic acne (appearing as red bumps) and will commonly develop as a result of papules becoming infected.

Nodules: Nodules are considered a more severe form of acne. Nodules will also form as a small bump (either skin-coloured or red in appearance), but they typically form deeper in the skin and will usually feel hard as well as be painful to the touch.

Cysts: Unlike the aforementioned forms of acne, which all usually appear as smaller bumps on the skin/face, cysts are much larger in appearance. Like nodules, cysts are also considered to be a more severe form of acne, and can also be extremely painful.

Acne Do’s and Don’ts

One of the most common things people will do when they develop “pimples” or acne is pop them, and this is actually one of the worst things you can do and is something that should be avoided all together. When you pop a pimple, you could spread pus and infected bacteria to surrounding pores, creating an even worse problem. It can also result in delayed healing time, as well as acne scarring.

To prevent acne breakouts from occurring, keep your skin clean by washing your face twice a day using a mild cleanser. Harsh cleaners and soaps should be avoided as they can trigger breakouts. Things like stress and certain foods have also been known to trigger acne, so it may also benefit you to keep a journal and write down any triggers you’re aware of and share that with your doctor.

Acne and Self-Esteem

Regardless of the type of acne you have, it can significantly impact one’s body image and self-esteem, leaving one feeling embarrassed, unattractive, and lacking in confidence. It can also cause individuals to want to socially isolate themselves from others out of fear of how they might be perceived. This type of social isolation can ultimately lead to social phobia, resulting in one becoming house-bound, and may even lead to anxiety or depression. If you have acne and it is having a considerable effect on your ability to socialize with others or carry out your normal day to day routine, it’s important that you be open and honest with your physician about how you’re feeling.

The next step is to find treatment, which is usually done through being referred to a skin specialist known as a dermatologist. Once you find a treatment plan that is best suited for you, and once you begin to notice results, your self-esteem will ultimately improve. You may also find it beneficial to join an online support group, but always be wary of any that offer medical advice, and if you’re not sure if the advice you’re reading is accurate then you should first check with your physician and/or dermatologist.