Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. It is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that occur on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms.
Acne is caused by many factors. Acne appears when a pore in the skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells rise to surface of the pore, and the body sheds the cells. When the body starts to make lots of sebum, oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore. Instead of rising to the surface, the cells become trapped inside the pore.
Sometimes bacteria that live on our skin, p. acnes, also get inside the clogged pore. Inside the pore, the bacteria have a perfect environment for multiplying very quickly. With a large amount of bacteria inside, the pore becomes inflamed (red and swollen). If the inflammation goes deep into the skin, an acne cyst or nodule appears.
The following can bring on acne or make it worse:
- Emotional stress
- Certain medications
Acne usually begins in puberty and affects many adolescents and young adults, but it can occur at any stage of life. Approximately 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne. The costs associated with the treatment of acne exceed $3 billion.