Acne is common in most adolescents and is one of the most widespread skin conditions in the world. More than 90 percent of adolescents and almost 25 percent of all adults suffer from it. Although there is no cure, we can still educate ourselves about what causes it, in order to better understand the condition many suffer from.
Most of us suffer from acne during puberty when our body begins to produce hormones called androgens. These hormones over-stimulate the sebaceous glands, which release an oily lipid secretion. The secretion is stimulated by adrenal glands and gonads.
Sebaceous glands secrete sebum which is a lipid product made up of triacylglycerides, cholesterol, proteins and electrolytes. Because of the overstimulation of the sebaceous glands by androgens, there is an excessive production of sebum. As the sebum travels up the follicle and onto the skin surface, it mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells. This extra production of sebum clogs up the follicles, causing acne. During adolescent years, the sebum production is at its peak and usually decreases after twenty years.
On our skin surface lays the bacteria Propionibacterium acne, which maintain the sebum production system. However, when follicles are plugged, the bacteria quickly multiply, causing inflammation. These bacteria use sebum as a nutrient for growth; the increase in sebum production allows the bacteria to rapidly increase in number as they have the necessary nutrients for growth. Through chemotaxis or inflammatory response, the body sends white blood cells to attack the exceeding number of Propionibacterium acne. As a result, the pimples tend to become red, swollen, and sometimes even painful. There is also an accumulation of pus as the white blood cells hydrolyze free fatty acids in the follicles.
In people with acne, sticky squamous epithelium lines the follicle. In most people, dead cells from the follicle are shed away as they move to the skin’s surface. However, in people with acne and increased sebum production, these dead cells are not shed away properly and become adhesive to the follicles. Sometimes, these cells are shed away at a quicker rate, creating a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells. This results in the obstruction of follicles and thwarts the skin from naturally renewing itself.
Sometimes the cause of acne is due to the genetic factors or traits we have inherited from our parents. Researchers have not yet discovered the specific genetic factor that affects acne.