« Acne Research »
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Acne, according to the AcneNet, a website maintained by the American Academy of Dermatology, is the most common skin disease across all ages, sexes, national boundaries and ethnic backgrounds. Statistics from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease website shown in the United States along, nearly 17 million people have acne. In fact, “Americans spend well over a hundred million dollars a year for nonprescription acne treatments, not even taking into account special soaps and cleansers” (5, Terry). With this degree of widespread prevalence and its economic impact to society, acne is certainly not a medical condition that America should ignore.

Over the years, numerous researches have been done on acne. Through these researches and studies, doctors are now well informed and knowledgeable about what acne is, the types of acne, the causes of acne and its treatments. Acne in short, is “a common skin condition that occurs when the oil-secreting glands [or the sebaceous glands] and hair follicles in the skin get clogged and cause bacteria to grow in the pores” (82, Wai).

There are several types of acne. They range in severity from comedones to nodules and cysts. A comedo is plugged pore with sebum, dead cells or keratinocytes, hairs and bacteria. An open comedo is commonly called a blackhead while an closed comedo is a whitehead. Papulas are inflamed lesions that appear as small pinkish pumps on the skin. A pustule is a domed shaped, fragile lesion with pus that consists of a mixture of white blood cells, dead skin cells and bacteria. A macule is a temporary red spot left by a healed acne lesion. It appears flat, red, and with defined border. A macule can remain for days or weeks before disappearing. Nodule is a large, painful, solid lesion that is lodged deep within the skin. At last, a cyst is a sac like lesion containing liquid material extended into the deeper layers of the skin that may cause scars.

Acne develops when the pores on our skin gets plugged. But what cause these pores to be plugged? There are several major causes of acne. Firstly, a hormone called androgen is the most common causes for teen acne sufferers. During puberty, increased androgen level in our body will stimulated the enlargement of our sebaceous gland. Our enlarged sebaceous glands will increase the production of sebum. This excessive sebum combining with hair and keratinocytes is most likely to produce a plug, allowing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. Acnes) to accumulate and grow in the plugged follicles. Inflammations thus are formed when white blood cells rush to these sites to protect us from the invasion of these bacteria. Additionally, Hormonal changes related to pregnancy and birth control pill can also cause acne. Secondly, heredity or genetics is another factor to cause acne. Several studies had confirmed that tendency to develop acne can be inherited from parents. Thirdly, certain drugs, such as androgens and lithium can cause acne. Fourthly, Greasy cosmetics may alter the cells of the follicles, making them readily to stick together, producing a plug, resulting in acne. Lastly, though diet and stress are not directly involve or cause acne formation, several studies have found that diet and stress are closely related with acne. In one of the recent studies by the Department of Dermatology in Stanford University, researchers confirmed stress can affect and worsen acne. Thus, a balanced diet and a relaxed lifestyle are recommended for acne patients by many doctors and authors of books about acne.

Even though numerous researches and studies have been conducted, millions of dollars were spent, and many new drugs have been developed, the cure for acne has yet to be found. Acne may not be a curable disease, however it is treatable. For treatment to mild inflammatory acnes, such as blackheads and whiteheads, doctors recommend over the counter (OTC) or prescribed topical medication. Topical medications are applied directly to the acne lesions or to the entire affected area on the skin. The most common topical OTC medicines used are benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur. Benzoyl peroxide kills the P. Acnes bacteria while resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur break down blackheads and whiteheads. Antibiotics, tretinoin, adapalene and azelaic acid are to treat moderate to severe inflammatory acne. They help slow and stop the growth of bacteria and reduce inflammation. Lastly, for people with severe nodules and cysts, they should seek the help from a certified dermatologist. A doctor may prescribe isotretinoin which is an oral medicine taken twice a day with food. Its effect is to reduce the size of the sebaceous glands, thus eliminating excessive sebum productions. As a result, growth of bacteria is decreased.

Acne is very individualized. In fact, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that there is no definite answer to which is the best treatment for acne in any given case. Thus, acne patients should keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another. Additionally, resolution takes time. It is to the patients benefit not to fall for treatments that promised guaranteed, fast, overnight results.

People who suffer from the physical pains of acne also tend to experience emotional damages. These psychological effects include frustration, anger, low self-esteem, embarrassment, preoccupation and even depression. On its social impact, studies have found traces of social withdrawal, reduced confidence and higher rates of unemployment. Not only acne has an economic impact on our society, its psychosocial impact is even more far reaching that affects our lives. Hopefully, more researches will be conducted, more new drugs will be developed and a cure will be found in the near future.


Chin, Ann. (17 November 2003). “Stress and acne related, Stanford study confirms”. Stanford Daily Online Edition. [18 September 2005].

Susman, Ed. (3 August 2001). “AAD: Early Study Shows Cool Laser Treatment Improves Acne Scars Appearance” Doctor’s Guide to Medical News. [16 September 2005].

Bricker, David. (23 April 2001). “Effective Acne Treatments Remain Elusive, Hopkins Researchers Find” The Gazette Online. [15 September 2005].

AcneNet. (2005). “What is Acne?”. [23 September 2005].

Acne.org (2005). “Information on acne, acne medications, and treatment of scars”. [23 September 2005].

Acne.com (2005). “How Deep is Skin Deep? - A Closer Look at Your Body’s Resilient Armor” [23 September 2005].

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (October 2001). “Questions and Answers About Acne” [20 September 2005].

Genriiu, Wai No More Cellulite, No More Acne, No More Overweight. Armsterdam, The Netherlands: Artists Cooperative Groove Union, 2002.

Dubrow, Terry. The Acne Cure. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books, 2003.

Preston, Lydia. Breaking Out : A Woman's Guide to Coping with Acne at Any Age NYC: Fireside, 2004.