Coming To Terms With Acne Spots: The Phrases You Need To Know
Dealing with acne spots is a stressful and challenging experience. There are a lot of terms and phrases that are often thrown around and they can be confusing and difficult to understand – making a tricky time even worse. It’s all well and good knowing you need to take decisive action in regards to your skin but part of understanding what it needs is being able to make sense of all of the terminology.
There are a few general phrases that pop up time and time again when talking about acne-centric skincare and knowing what they mean can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to getting to grips with your skin. Here are a few that you need to know:
Purging – purging is when you experience a breakout or your existing acne becomes worse after you start using a new product. It is caused by active ingredients increasing skin cell turnover, thus leading to blocked pores and spots. Purging is often a temporary side effect that happens on the way to clearer, smoother skin.
Sebaceous Glands/Sebum – the sebaceous glands are small glands found near our hair follicles and release a substance called sebum. They’re most prominent on the scalp and the face. Sebum helps to form the slightly greasy surface film of the skin but, for many people who are prone to acne, the sebaceous glands often produce too much of this substance, which may result in oily skin.
Non-comedogenic – non-comedogenic is a term used to describe an ingredient in makeup or skincare products that is specifically formulated so as not to block pores. It is always advised that you look for non-comedogenic products if you suffer from acne spots as they can reduce the chances of development.
Do You Know Your Skin Type?
There are four main skin types that are often referred to when discussing skincare. Those who are acne-prone tend to have oily skin. This is because the sebum on their skin mixes with dead skin cells and gets stuck in the pores more often, leading to the emergence of spots. The main categories when it comes to skin types are as follows:
‘Normal’ – this isn’t a term that gets thrown around very often, as ‘normal’ skin isn’t something that really exists. When used by a dermatologist, this means that a person’s skin is essentially well-balanced with no specific sensitivities. A person with ‘normal’ skin will not experience areas of dryness or oiliness.
Dry – those with dry skin might experience flakiness, cracking or peeling. They might also encounter itchiness, particularly in cold weather. If you have dry skin, you might play host to red patches that appear irritated in comparison to the rest of your skin. You may also have more visible lines, or a rougher complexion in general.
Oily – as mentioned earlier, oily skin is caused by increased sebum production. Despite sebum being a naturally occurring substance, too much of it can lead to oily, visibly shiny and acne-prone skin.
Combination – combination skin refers to skin that might be dry in some places but oilier in others, such as the T-zone. These areas often have more sebaceous glands.
Each skin type comes with its own set of concerns. Figuring out your skin type can therefore help you to formulate a routine tailored to the needs of your skin.
Types Of Spots
If you’ve ever wondered why some of your spots are nothing more than bumps but others are filled with pus – you’re in the right place! Spots are all formed in the same way but they can take many different forms.
You might not experience every single type of spot there is, but knowing what you’re looking at in the mirror can help you to understand how to treat them and when to seek professional advice.
Comedones – comedones are small, flesh-coloured acne spots. They typically crop up on the forehead and chin. Blackheads and whiteheads are the most common forms of comedonal acne. When melanin is oxidised, it turns the clogged pores a black colour, which is how a blackhead forms. Comedogenic makeup and skincare items often cause comedones, meaning that you should consider different products that won’t clog your pores.
Pustules – pustules tend to have a visible centre that is filled with pus, as their name suggests. They are formed in the same way as papules and are treated as a mild form of acne. It can be tempting to squeeze these spots but it’s always in your own best interests to refrain from doing so. Popping spots forces bacteria deeper into the skin and increases the risk of scarring.
Papules – these are inflamed bumps that develop under the surface of the skin. They are typically solid, swollen and red. They appear when whiteheads and blackheads cause damage to the surrounding skin and, unlike pustules, they do not have a visible centre. Papules are considered to be a mild form of acne.
Nodules – nodules are a severe form of acne. They are formed deep under the surface of the skin, are often red or skin-coloured and are very hard to the touch as they do not contain pus. They may persist for weeks or even months and are incredibly hard to treat without medical intervention.
Cysts – cystic acne can look like large, red boils. Cysts live deep beneath the skin and are filled with pus. When they erupt, this often leads to infection. Most cysts begin life as blackheads or whiteheads and they are recognised as being one of the most severe forms of acne.They are best treated with professional help to ensure they do not return.
If your acne spots won’t budge and you’re struggling to manage it on your own, you might just need a professional treatment plan.
Dr Firas Al-Niaimi has over twenty years of experience and knows how to treat every type of acne there is. He has spent his entire career helping those who have believed their skin was beyond saving, proving them wrong, every time!
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