Acne is a very common inflammatory skin condition which affects primarily the face but also the chest, back, upper arms, and legs. Acne is one of the top ten chronic diseases in the world, affecting approximately 9.4 per cent of the global population. The causes are multifactorial including a genetic predisposition to acne.
At puberty, hormone levels increase, resulting in increased sebum (oil) production from the sebaceous gland which sits at the base of the hair follicle. This leads to stickiness of the skin cells within the hair follicles, causing the formation of a comedone. A comedone is the primary lesion of acne and is more commonly known as a blackhead. Bacteria such as Cutibacterium acnes, which lives on everyone’s skin, may get into a blocked pore/blackhead, resulting in the formation of a papule – a red spot; or a pustule – a white spot also known as a whitehead. Some individuals form deeper lesions called cysts or nodules which may be painful or tender to the touch.
All inflammatory lesions may lead to scarring which can be both physically and emotionally debilitating. Over 85 per cent of teenagers report acne of varying severity but it is also very common in adults, especially women, affecting approximately 20-40 per cent of adult females. It may occur during pregnancy, can be linked to the use of hormonal contraceptives, and is also seen in association with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Treatment for acne can depend on the severity of the condition and whether the type of acne is scarring or non-scarring. For non-scarring mild acne, it is best to begin with a basic skincare routine.
In the last year, ‘maskne’ has become a more frequent occurrence, especially for those who wear masks for prolonged periods of time such as frontline healthcare workers. ‘Maskne’ is a form of Acne Mechanica that occurs due to the friction of the tight-fitting mask against the skin surface which stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. This, combined with the increased humidity underneath the mask, leads to the perfect micro-environment for bacteria to grow, resulting in the formation of comedones and inflammatory lesions on the lower part of the face: the chin, jawline, lower cheeks, and neck. Treatment includes adapting the skincare routine by performing a nightly double cleanse, adding AHAs and/or BHAs and looking to oil-free skincare products. Use a clean mask every day and try to have make-up free days where possible.