Dear Ian Zochling

No one knows for sure what causes acne but everyone knows what a pain it is. Those zits seem to appear in the worst possible place at the worse possible time.

Of course we do know lots of possible reasons for acne vulgaris. And we know what to do to help improve the pimple problem.

The first thing you need to know is that everybody's skin produces an oil called sebum to keep it smooth and supple and moist.

The second thing is--during teenage years lots of hormones zing around your body, helping it change into an adult body. One of these important hormones is called androgen. For some reason (we think), androgen stimulates the oil glands to produce extra sebum--so much that the hair follicles get blocked. Tiny bits of dead skin can also get clogged up with the sebum, which becomes a blob of white wax that gets stuck in the follicle. These whiteheads are sometimes called comedones.

Sometimes the tip of the comedo becomes black from melanin (the pigment that makes skin darker). Then it is called a blackhead.

Here's the third bit of information to put into the equation...

Bacteria live on your skin all the time. The bacteria that causes acne thrive in the oily, clogged-up environment of the follicle that has a comedo in it. That's when the zit becomes a swollen, tender, sensitive pimple and you desperately want to squeeze it to get rid of it.


So the lessons to learn about acne are:

Yours sincerely 

Virginia R. Claire

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