Stages of Zit or Acne Formation
Nobody likes pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, acne or zits. These terms are used interchangeably but they really should specify the exact skin condition since they do vary in anatomy and physiology and so the treatment varies as well. In this journal entry we will examine not the formation of a blackhead or whitehead but the zit since it causes the greatest amount of emotional and psychological trauma to people.
Zooming in on the skin we see hairs, pores, blemishes but we need to go deeper than that, we need to see beneath the skin. You have probably seen a picture of a cross slice of skin illustrating the hair follicle, sweat glands and other subjects of the skin.
Looking at stage one we see that there is a plugged hair follicle but how did it get that way? The very first essential item that is needed for a zit to form is hormones. It is the presence of these hormones that causes the sebaceous gland to secrete more sebum than is normal. These hormones come from a number of sources. The first source that we are very familiar with is puberty, as a young man or woman enters puberty, hormonal levels are elevated causing significant growth and development in the body, which is essential but the fact that it stimulates the sebaceous gland to secrete more sebum is a negative side effect of the developmental process. There are a couple other proven ways that hormone levels increase, sexual activity, stress and the consumption of dairy products. The first two cause hormone levels in the body while the third item, dairy consumption, includes the ingestion of hormones from a mother cow that were intended to help the calf grow quickly.
These hormones, despite the way they are present stimulate the sebaceous gland to secrete more sebum than is necessary. Sebum is a natural fatty oil substance used for lubricating the skin and hair. If there is too much sebum it is not able to exit the hair follicle quick enough and with the skin cells constantly shedding the two, sebum and skin cells, stick together and clog the follicle. The bacterium that is responsible for acne, Propionibacterium Acnes or p. acnes is always present in the skin and does not cause problems under normal conditions but in the presence of a clogged follicle that is warm, moist, dark, lacks oxygen and there is plenty of sebum to eat the bacteria set up camp and have a typical roman orgy with lots of eating and reproductive activities. This activity causes chemicals to be released into the body that the white blood cells pick up on and they go to break up the party.
In stage 3 we see the WBC’s arriving but they don’t play nice. They release chemicals that not only destroy the bacteria but surrounding tissue as well and some of the WBC’s die in the process. All of this stuff that is accumulating in the follicle, dead bacteria, sebum, dead skin and now, battle debris from the WBC’s is termed “pus” and is what causes the white head to form and be visible to onlookers. This is a mild inflammation and the skin may also begin to show redness and the area may be tender to touch. This is when the person knows a pimple is forming.
Stage 4 shows the progression of the accumulation of pus. There are a couple of things that can happen at this point. First and not uncommon is that the owner of this new zit will squeeze the zit to relieve it of it’s contents and to provide the owner with a sense of relief that people won’t see the hideous white spot on their skin. Unfortunately, squeezing a zit is one of the worst things you can do since it can cause any one of three possibilities to take place and likely more than one of the three at the same time. First, squeezing the zit can cause the underlying infection to be pushed through the tissues of the skin and spread to another follicle in another region of the skin. Second, the pus that is released onto the surface of the skin can infect other areas of the skin, spreading the acne and lastly, lifelong scarring can result. This scarring can be partially corrected by laser resurfacing, which is an expensive cosmetic procedure but most people live life with the scars. Acne and the scarring can leave people emotionally and psychologically damaged for life. Some people sink into depression and can even have suicidal thoughts.
How much better to make every attempt to stop the process at stage one by practicing a lifestyle that is known to improve the chances of having better skin with fewer acne problems.