Clogged pores in the skin cause blemishes known as acne. Acne often appears for the first time during puberty, but may affect you at any time during your life. Acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States and most people will endure at least one breakout in their lifetime. Though pimples, cysts and other blemishes most often occur on the face, they may also appear on your neck, chest, back and shoulders.
The openings on the surface of your skin are known as pores. Pores connect to your hair follicles which span several layers of skin. Each hair follicle produces a single hair. Hair follicles also contain tiny oil producing glands called sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands produce sebum oil, which is a mixture of proteins, salts, fats and cholesterol. Dead skin cells float to the top of the hair follicle on this oil. A mixture of sebum oil and skin cells coats your skin to protect it from bacteria, viruses and weather.
When you reach puberty, hormones in your body signal your pores to enlarge and create more sebum oil. Sometimes, this increase in oil can cause the hair follicles to become blocked. As a result, the skin is unable to shed dead cells. Instead, these cells and oil become trapped in the hair follicles causing whiteheads. If these clogged pores burst, the tops turn black, creating blackheads. Pimples and cysts form when bacteria grow deep in the clogged follicles causing them to become red and painful.
Since acne is caused by an excess of oil, washing the skin twice a day with a gentle cleanser can help prevent acne because it removes excess oil before it can clog pores. For many people, washing with soap and water is not enough and stronger treatments are needed. Over the counter cleansers can help, though severe or long lasting acne may require a visit to the dermatologist. Allowing acne to go untreated can result in permanent scarring.