Acne FAQs

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What is ACNE?

Acne is a disorder resulting from the action of hormones on the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands), which leads to plugged pores and outbreaks of lesions commonly called pimples or zits.

 

How does ACNE develop?

Doctors describe acne as a disease of the pilosebaceous units (PSUs). Found over most of the body, PSUs consist of a sebaceous gland connected to a canal, called a follicle, that contains a fine hair (see “Normal Pilosebaceous Unit” diagram, below). These units are most numerous on the face, upper back, and chest. The sebaceous glands make an oily substance called sebum that normally empties onto the skin surface through the opening of the follicle, commonly called a pore. Cells called keratinocytes line the follicle.

 

What causes ACNE?

The exact cause of acne is unknown, but doctors believe it results from several related factors. One important factor is an increase in hormones called androgens (male sex hormones).

The hair, sebum, and keratinocytes that fill the narrow follicle may produce a plug, which is an early sign of acne. The plug prevents sebum from reaching the surface of the skin through a pore. The mixture of oil and cells allows bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) that normally live on the skin to grow in the plugged follicles. These bacteria produce chemicals and enzymes and attract white blood cells that cause inflammation. (Inflammation is a characteristic reaction of tissues to disease or injury and is marked by four signs: swelling, redness, heat, and pain.) When the wall of the plugged follicle breaks down, it spills everything into the nearby skin–sebum, shed skin cells, and bacteria–leading to lesions or pimples.

 People with acne frequently have a variety of lesions, some of which are shown in the diagrams below. The basic acne lesion, called the comedo (KOM-e-do), is simply an enlarged and plugged hair follicle. If the plugged follicle, or comedo, stays beneath the skin, it is called a closed comedo and produces a white bump called a whitehead. A comedo that reaches the surface of the skin and opens up is called a blackhead because it looks black on the skin’s surface. This black discoloration is not due to dirt. Both whiteheads and blackheads may stay in the skin for a long time.

 

Types of ACNE lesions:

 – Micromedo/Pimple (red, inflamed, swollen)

 – Open Comedo/BlackHead

 – Closed Comedo/WhiteHead

 – Other types of acne lesions can develop including the following:

 Papules: inflamed lesions that usually appear as small pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to the touch.

 – Pustules: papules topped by pus filled lesions that may be red at the base.

 – Nodules: large, painful, solid lesions that are lodged deep within the skin.

 – Cysts: deep, painful, pus filled lesions that can cause scarring.

 

How does vitamin B5 work?

The working theory of B5’s anti-acne effect is that acne vulgaris (“vulgaris” from the Latin word for “common”) is really a symptom of a B5 deficiency in the body. Normally, B5 is used in the body to create and regulate hormones, process lipids (fats), etc. But when the body’s B5 pool is depleted, B5 (as coenzyme-A) is allocated according to the body’s own survival priorities. In other words, hormones and neural function are given as much available B5 as possible, with the process of fat metabolism receiving whatever B5 is left over from the more important processes.

 

How does this relate to acne?

Well, when they’re not burned for fuel or stored for future use, extra fats are excreted, among other methods, through the skin as a fat-rich oil called “sebum”. The skin normally has a certain amount of oil released through the sebaceous glands as a means of lubrication. But when there are excess lipids to be eliminated, they are excreted through the sebaceous glands as extra sebum. Thus one experiences “oily” skin.

The skin naturally has a number of blocked pores at any given time, either because of dirt, unshed skin cells or solidified sebum, but the normal output of oil is so low that there is little appreciable build-up of oil behind the blockages. In the case of excess sebum secretion, blocked pores quickly become flooded with sebum, creating a buildup that not only causes a noticeable bump or “comedone”, but also an environment where bacteria may flourish, sometimes causing the pore and surrounding skin to become infected.

 

How do I take it?

Take anywhere from 3-10 grams a day. Some people do a loading phase, some not.

It is highly recommended to take your doses of B5 divided up evenly over the day. For example, if you were taking 6 grams of B5 per day, you would do well to take six 1-gram doses, spaced out as evenly as possible. The reason for spacing out your doses is that the body can only make use of so much B5 (or any nutrient) at a time.

Trying to take the 6 grams of B5 all at once would really only result in a waste of the excess that the body can’t absorb, and it wouldn’t allow much coverage for your body’s B5 needs throughout the rest of the day. The ideal might be to take as many small doses throughout the day as possible, but it isn’t always practical to take doses on every hour or half-hour. Every two or three hours appears to work best for most people

 

Tea Tree Oil: Natural Topical Antibiotic

Hot Tea Tree Oil Works:

Tea Tree Oil contains substances called terpenes which have a powerful antibacterial action. Terpenes are able to kill many bacteria, including some that are resistant to standard antibiotics, like staphylococcus aureus. Other bacteria are so weakened that the body is able to destroy them. Tea tree oil also help speed up the healing process.

 “Because it (tea tree oil) has the unusual ability to penetrate beneath the surface of the skin it can help to clear up ‘blind’ pimples which often take so long to heal… [Regarding arthritis] Tea Tree oil has the special property of being able to penetrate through the skin to work on the tissue beneath, and its mildly anesthetic qualities give relief from the pain… Tea tree oil has mild anesthetic antiseptic qualities which will greatly reduce any risk of infection…” (Drury, Susan. Tea Tree Oil: A Medicine Kit in a Bottle. Lindfield: Unity P, 1991.)

 

How to Use Tea Tree Oil:

You can get tea tree oil at most drug stores or natural health food stores. Apply the oil to effected areas 2-3 times a day. It does have a distinct minty/eucalyptus smell, so I usually put it on just at bed time. A little goes a long way.

 

Common Uses for Tea Tree Oil:

– As an antiseptic, antibacterial and anti fungal.

– Effective against fungal skin infections including athletes’ foot.

– Reduces the risk of infections and aids healing of cuts, abrasions and burns.

– Soothes insect bites.

– Helps reduce dandruff – add a few drops to shampoo when you wash your hair.

 

Benzoyl Peroxide

What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide, acne treatment, is a topical antibiotic. The “benzoyl” propels “peroxide” into the follicle, releasing oxygen killing the anaerobic Acne P. bacteria responsible for acne lesions. Anaerobic defines a bacterium that cannot survive in the present of oxygen.

Applied once, sometimes twice, a day to control the bacteria count, missing one or two days can bring on a new crop of pimples. Its anti-inflammatory action reduces swelling and redness allowing the skin to heal. The sloughing action promotes follicular peeling to evacuate closed comedones and open comedones called black heads.

A stellar point for benzoyl peroxide is it does not cause bacteria to become resistant to its benefits or properties. Moderate to severe acne may take from three weeks to several months to start showing improvement.

 

Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide:

Dryness, redness and scaly skin are experienced if the product is initially used in too high a concentration, or is applied too often. Occasionally, these symptoms, if severe, may signal an allergy to benzoyl peroxide, and often include swelling, itching or tenderness.

Benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil are just a couple of over the counter treatments for acne.

Some others include: triclosan based face washes, cosmetics containing witch hazel or alcohol. Also, there are numerous scrubs, creams, and washes.

 Although acne is a terrible and frustrating condition, please do not be too hasty in your treatment. More often than not, a full fledged attack on your skin IRRITATES and AGGRAVATES breakouts more than prevent them.

If you dry out your skin too much, it can actually promote an increased production of oil and sebum to compensate. Also, without natural moisture in your skin, you are actually exposing your skin to a higher risk of infection.

 

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My best suggestion is to :

– Use a MILD cleanser for your face, like Cetaphil, or Neutrogena, or any other gentle, oil free and soap free cleanser.

– Supplement with vitamin B5.

– Spot treat acne with benzoyl peroxide and/or tea tree oil.

– Always be sure to mositurize your face after cleansing. If you are acne prone, or have oily skin, look for oil free moistureizers.

 

If you suffer acne on your back, or other parts of the body be sure to:

– Use cotton bedsheets.

– Wash your sheets every other day.

– Always shower after your workouts as soon as possible.

– In a spray bottle, use rubbing alcohol and/or a mix of rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, and tea tree oil, and spray your effected areas 1-3 times a day.

Here is some more information about some perscription treatments for ACNE.

If all natural or over the counter treatments fail, or if you are suffering from a terribly severe case of acne, please see a doctor or dematologist.

 

RetinA: A Perscription Topical Acne Treatment

This information is taken from the above site.

 

What is RetinA?

RetinA AKA Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A. Topical Tretinoin is used in the treatment of mild to moderate acne and on skin that has been damaged by excessive exposure to the sun.

 

How does RetinA work?

Tretinoin irritates the skin and causes the cells of the skin to grow (divide) and die more rapidly, that is, it increases the turnover of cells. The number of layers of cells in the skin actually is reduced. In patients with acne, new cells replace the cells of existing pimples, and the rapid turnover of cells prevents new pimples from forming.

 

Are there Side Effects?

Following the application of tretinoin to the skin, there often is local inflammation. This reaction disappears when treatment is stopped. Mild stinging or a sensation of warmth also can occur when applying tretinoin. Dryness, scaling, and redness occur frequently. If severe redness, vesicles or crusting develops, a physician should be notified immediately and tretinoin stopped.

 Some patients using tretinoin develop an increased sensitivity to develop sunburn (photosensitivity). Therefore, it is advisable to avoid exposing treated areas of the skin to excessive sunlight or UV lamps to reduce the risk of severe sunburn

 

Accutane (Isotretinoin):

An oral perscritption medication-The following information is taken from the above website.

 

What is Accutane (Isotretinoin)?

Accutane is an oral drug used for the treatment and prevention of severe acne. Acne is caused by inflammation of the skin. Severe acne causes permanent scarring of the skin. The inflammation is caused in part by an increased secretion of sebum (oily substance) from glands in the skin (sebaceous glands). The sebum provokes inflammation, and the inflammation resolves (heals) with the formation of a scar (keratinization). The exact mechanism of action of isotretinoin is not known; however, it may reduce acne by reducing the secretion of sebum. If less sebum is secreted it is likely that there will be less inflammation and keratinization.

 Side Effects: The most common side effects of isotretinoin are dry skin, itching, dry nose, nosebleeds (epistaxis), cracks in the corners of the mouth (chilitis), dry mouth, and inflammation of the whites of the eyes. Joint aches also are common.

Patients may develop an increase in blood cholesterol and triglycerides. Psychiatric problems such as depression, hallucinations and suicidal behavior have been reported.

Rare side effects include skin infections, peeling, sun sensitivity, hearing impairment and hepatitis. Rarely, isotretinoin can cause brain swelling (pseudotumor cerebri or intracranial hypertension), which produces nausea, vomiting, headache, and changes in vision.

Tetracycline aka Achromycin; Sumycin: A perscription oral antibiotic

The following information is taken from the above website.

 

What is Tetracycline?

Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. It is effective against a wide variety of bacteria including Hemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia psittaci, Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and many others.

This includes the bacteria responsible for causing acne vulgaris, propionibacterium acnes.

 Side effects of Tetracycline: Tetracycline is generally well-tolerated.

 

The most common side effects are diarrhea or loose stools, nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Tetracyclines may cause discoloration of teeth if used in patients below 8 years of age.

 Exaggerated sunburn can occur with tetracyclines; therefore, sunlight should be minimized during treatment.

 Commentary: As with any antibiotics, some of the offensive strain may survive the treatment, resulting in resistance to the medication.

 

I have mixed feelings about antibiotics. You see the effects pretty fast, but once you are off of them, there is a chance that acne can come back with a vengence.

But then again, tetracycline is also very effective for many people.

 

Cortisone Injections: Spot Treatments for Cystic Acne

The following information is taken from the above website.

 

What is Cortisone?

An adrenocorticoid hormone, a naturally occurring hormone made by and secreted by the adrenal cortex, the outer part (the cortex) of the adrenal gland.

Its many uses include the treatment of adrenocortical deficiency and conditions associated with inflammation.

 

How does it work?

Doctors can inject this horomone into large painful cysts. As a result, the cyst will heal faster, quickly flatten out, and have a smaller chance of producing a scar.

 

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