It is estimated that 80% of all people between the ages of 11 and 30 have acne outbreaks at some point, with many going on to suffer the condition later in life. Acne can range from very mild to severe cases, appearing on the face, back, chest, neck, shoulders, upper arms and buttocks, displaying one or more of the following symptoms.
Known scientifically as comedones, blackheads occur when an open hair follicle fills with a combination of skin debris (keratin squamae), bacteria and oil (sebum). The dark head of the comedo is caused by oxidation (contact with the air). Blackheads are a mild form of acne.
When the clogged keratin and sebum are not exposed to the air, they remain white, and are known as whiteheads. Whiteheads are also a mild form of acne but, as with blackheads, if ‘popped’ too aggressively, they can leave permanent scarring.
Papules usually appear as small pink or reddish inflamed bumps on the skin, sometimes forming as part of a rash. They do not contain pus, and can often go away on their own, but are a sign of a more severe acne condition.
Pustules are generally small, although they can grow, often reddish sores filled with white or yellow pus. They can develop anywhere on the body - though the face, back and chest are the most common areas.
Solid lesions that appear under the skin, nodules can be painful and are a sign of more severe, inflamed acne condition. Nodules can remain under the skin for some time, and it is not recommended to squeeze them. Acne medication and specialised skincare can help reduce nodules.
The most severe of the acne symptoms, cystic acne is due to bacteria entering the blocked follicle and creating an infection that forms deep beneath the epidermis, causing a lump on the surface of the skin, which can often be painful. Cysts that have been under the skin for a long time may need to be removed by a medical professional, and should not be attempted at home due to the risk of further infection.
Depending on your symptoms and severity of acne, your dermatologist will either prescribe you a medicated treatment and/or a tailored skincare routine designed for acne-prone skin.