What Is Acne? What is a Pimple?

Although the question What is Acne? may seem straightforward, it is actually very complex. And if you’re serious about improving your skin, it’s essential to learn the real answers.

Skin is the body’s largest organ. If you take a closer look at skin, it is made up of two main layers: the epidermis and the dermis.

What is acne? Skin structure illustration

- The epidermis is the top layer and is made up of various types of skin cells. As skin cells gradually mature, they move upwards in the epidermis which causes a continual natural exfoliation process. Dead skin cells are constantly being shed from the surface of the skin to make room for the new ones coming up.

- The dermis is the deeper layer of the skin and it is mainly composed of collagen and elastin, which keep the skin firm and supple. The dermis also contains all of the “equipment”- like nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, sebaceous glands (oil glands) and more.

Underneath the dermis is a layer of subcutaneous tissue, which is made up of fat cells.

So given all of this information, What is Acne?

Acne definition- an inflammatory disease which affects the sebaceous glands and hair follicles of the skin.

Essentially the sebaceous glands (or oil glands) are tiny ducts located around hair follicles that continuously produce oil (sebum) to help lubricate and protect the skin. This excretion of sebum is controlled by androgens, which are a type of hormone. The most commonly known androgen is testosterone.

Here is a picture of a normal hair follicle (without acne) to help illustrate where the sebaceous glands, follicle, and sebum are located in the skin.

Normal hair follicle

The sebum normally just drains to the surface; however, acne develops when the openings of the hair follicles are blocked.

What is acne? Zits look like this.
If a hair follicle is blocked, then the sebum will buildup along with dead skin cells and will get clogged near the pore. Bacteria, which live in everyone's skin but generally mind their own business, feast on this oil, multiply, and cause the surrounding tissues to become inflamed.

Depending on how the clog develops, it can either become non-inflammatory or inflammatory acne. Noninflammatory clogs develop into either whiteheads or blackheads, whereas inflammatory clogs develop into papules, pustules, or nodules.

Now that you have learned the answer to "What is Acne?", it is easier to understand the specific different types of acne. Learning the various types of acne will allow you to determine exactly what acne skin issues you are dealing with, and how to best resolve them.

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