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Acne is a localized skin inflammation that results from an overactivity of the oil (sebaceous) glands at the base of hair follicles. Acne results when oil (sebum) from the sebaceous glands arise around puberty. Sebaceous glands are stimulated by male hormones that are produced in the adrenal glands of both males and females. The adrenal glands are tiny glands that sit on top of each kidney like little party hats.

The sebaceous glands, which are located just beneath the skin (subcutaneous), continuously produce and secrete oil through 'itty bitty' openings in the skin. This oil lubricates and protects the skin. We have to have this oil. Under varying circumstances, cells that are close to the openings of the oil glands can block the openings and this will cause a buildup of oil underneath the skin. And therein lies the proverbial 'zit.'

Bacteria lives in and on every single person's skin and they usually just keep to themselves and mind their manners. But the oil is too tempting and they feast on this oil, multiply like rabbits, and cause the tissue around the area to become inflamed and red.

Here's something interesting - products on the market to treat acne usually have alcohol in them. When the alcohol is applied to the skin, the sebaceous glands tell the brain, "Gee my skin is dry, I need to produce more sebum." Because remember the sebaceous glands job is to keep the skin lubricated and protected. And then the brain reacts and tells the body what to do and WA-LAH . . . more sebum (oil) is produced. And then there is a catch-22 situation going on.

I saw a new acne commercial for a very popular acne product and they have finally chosen to make the product "alcohol-free," and I thought "What was your first clue Watson?" Many times when the skin is simply cleaned properly and moisturized, the brain says, "Gee my face is moisturized . . . aaaahhhhhh it feels so Good and I can stop producing so much sebum."

If the inflammation is right near the surface and ready to burst, it's a pustule; if it's deeper, it's a papule (pimple); and if it's deeper and hard, it's a cyst.

If the oil breaks through to the surface and you can see it, it is called a "closed comedo or whitehead." If the oil becomes oxidized, which means that oxygen in the air has acted on it, the oil changes from white to black, and it is called a "open comedo or blackhead."

Acne is very common and can also be disfiguring. It mainly effects more than 80% of U.S. adolescents. There are many factors involved in contracting acne, including the bacterium itself and fluctuating or changinging hormone levels.

The exact cause of acne is unknown. Several risk factors have been identified. Causes and symptoms:

Age - Due to the hormonal changes they experience, teenagers are more likely to develop acne.

Gender - Boys have more severe acne and develop it more often than girls.

Disease - Hormonal disorders can complicate acne in girls.

Heredity - Individuals with a family history of acne have greater susceptibility to the disease.

Hormonal changes - Acne can flare up before menstruation, during pregnancy, and menopause.

Diet - No foods cause acne, but certain foods may cause flare-ups.

Drugs - Acne can be a side effect of drugs including tranquilizers, antidepressants, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and anabolic steroids.

Personal hygiene - Abrasive soaps, hard scrubbing, or picking at pimples will make them worse.

Cosmetics - Oil-based makeup and hair sprays worsen acne.

Environment - Exposure to oils and greases, polluted air, and sweating in hot weather aggravate acne.

Stress - Emotional stress may contribute to acne.

Research indicates that a newly completed genome sequence of the acne bacterium Propionibacterium acnes has shown thousands of genes that give the bacterium the potential to cause skin disease.

Holger Brüggemann, who sequenced the microbe with colleagues at the Göttingen Genomics Laboratory in Germany states that it was thought that if a large number of bacteria P. acne's were present, it would trigger the inflammation and immune response associated with acne. P. acne's role is now known further.

The new genomic information reveals the P. acne's can produce proteins that actively cause acne. Brüggemann says, "P. acnes was regarded as a normal, harmless skin inhabitant, it wasn’t known that this bacterium had disease causing potential."

The team of researchers sequenced the 2.5 million bases in the genome of a P. acnes strain and identified 2333 genes. Some of these genes include the code for enzymes that break down human skin.

Brüggemann also said, "Sequencing the whole genome has revealed that the bacterium can actively degrade human skin tissue because of the massive presence of these enzymes, and also that there are specific immunogenic proteins which are present in this bacterium which trigger the immune response."

DISCLAIMER: **This web site's goal is to provide you with information that may be useful in attaining optimal health. Nothing in it is meant as a prescription or as medical advice. You should check with your physician before implementing any changes in your exercise or lifestyle habits, especially if you have physical problems or are taking medications of any kind.