Acne pimples form when oil glands make too much sebum, an oily substance. A spot forms when a pore through which a hair emerges is blocked by dead skin cells, and the sebaceous or oil gland found at the base of the pore produces too much oil.
The oil gets trapped in the hair channel and solidifies forming a blackhead. The oil gradually builds up around the hair and its root, and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
These bacteria break down the oil into very irritating chemicals that cause redness, swelling, pain and pus formation, in other words, a spot.
If the inflammation is deep and/or severe, or if a spot is squeezed, the pus can get into the healthy skin which will spread the swelling. It can result in scarring and the formation of something called a cyst (a ‘well’ of pus that has no connection to the skin surface).
Acne is most common from puberty to the late teens and usually clears up as you get older. Occasionally it is known to persist into the mid twenties or later however, and may even continue into your 40s or 50s. There are a number of common misconceptions about acne – for example it is often said that it is caused by a ‘poor diet’ or by ‘less than adequate personal hygiene’.
In fact there is no proof that either of these alleged causes plays any role in the development of acne.
On the other hand it is now known that acne symptoms can worsen if you squeeze blackheads or spots as this forces the contents of the spot deep into the skin, (For blackheads you should ideally use a tool called a comedone spoon which you can get at your pharmacy). In fact you should never squeeze a spot unless it has a definite “head”.
Excessive sweating is also known to make acne worse in some cases, as can a humid atmosphere, and surprisingly you are actually more likely to suffer with acne if you wash too frequently.