What is Acne Vulgaris?
The term acne vulgaris is one used to describe an inflammatory skin disease which is fairly commonplace and tends to affect the majority of the population – at some point in their lives. Acne vulgaris lesions are often more commonly known as zits, blackheads, whiteheads and pimples and they occur in an environment where there is a change in the skin cell units known as ‘pilosebeaceous units’ which contain sebaceous glands, a substance called sebum, and a hair follicle. When oil or dead skin cells build up and clog these ‘units’, a breakout or lesion is likely to occur.
Which Areas of Skin Are Most Affected?
The surface areas of the skin that contain the majority of the body’s sebaceous glands and will be the areas where acne vulgaris breakouts are most likely to occur. This includes the back, face, and upper portion of the chest. The most common causes of acne vulgaris are hormone fluctuations, excess sebum in the pilosebeaceous units, and, in some cases, genetics has been shown to play a role.
The Connection Between Acne Vulgaris and Hormones
Hormone changes that cause an excess of oil in the skin are a leading cause of acne vulgaris and, thus, this condition is most commonly seen in puberty. In puberty, breakouts are a response to levels of the hormone testosterone that is found in both males and females in varying degrees. Women do secrete small amounts of testosterone at different points in their cycle and these types of lesions are common in women, even after puberty in the days leading up to their menstrual period. As hormone changes become more stable over time, the acne vulgaris lesions will begin to diminish or decrease and will eventually disappear. The amount of time that it takes for the acne vulgaris to disappear entirely is different for every person, but it commonly disappears by the end of the teenage years.
Another cause of acne vulgaris is an excess of a substance called sebum. The sebaceous glands secrete this substance that is oily in nature and is composed of debris and fats. When cells in the glands burst, sebum is the result causing what appears as oily skin. The greasy look on unwashed hair is another example of excess sebum; in addition, earwax contains some amounts of sebum. It has been suggested that hormone fluctuations are also a leading cause of sebum production. Some of these hormones include the same androgen hormones that start in puberty, and others, such as insulin-growth factor hormones, also play a role. It is not uncommon for people with poor insulin regulation to experience frequent breakouts.
Causes of Acne Vulgaris
Acne Vulgaris Food Myths – Exposed
The fact that acne vulgaris is caused by eating too much greasy food or chocolate is not necessarily true. These types of foods will not trigger breakouts but will definitely aid in the production of oily skin. During periods where breakouts may be anticipated, avoiding these foods is suggested as a means of prevention. However, for many women, it is during the times leading up to their menstrual period when they crave these foods that they may be more prone to oilier skin. Teenagers also have a tendency to eat more of these foods so will likely have a greater presence of oily skin. Research has shown that genetics also play a role in acne vulgaris. Children of parents that have from this condition are much more likely to experience it.
Keeping Your Skin Clean Is Key to Fighting Acne Vulgaris
Keeping skin oil free and clean on a daily basis is the best prevention for acne vulgaris, however, when hormone fluctuations are the leading cause, this is often the best control for severe breakouts. Skin should be washed at least twice daily with products that will not clog pores. Using products with alpha hydroxy acid and salicylic acid will help significantly in the treatment and control of acne vulgaris.