Dog Days of Summer for an Acne Sufferer

Summer is upon us.  There’s no denying that fact!

For acne sufferers, the phrase “Dog Days of Summer” can certainly take on a whole new meaning.  Some experts estimate the number of days of summer to range between 92-95 days.  Taking into consideration the dates from June 21st to September 23rd, specifically referring to the Northern Hemisphere.

Many friends and family members are well into enjoying their summer plans.  You have decided not to do too much with your summer because you just can’t seem to stop thinking about those acne scars on your face, chest and back.  All year long you have bought “stuff” to clear up those unsightly scars.  You had plans to wear the new, cute summer hat and backless dress you found on sale.  Or you want to take off your shirt and slip on those cool looking shades for a great game of volleyball.  You know, you still have a score to settle from last year’s game out at the beach.  Yet, you’ve discovered that not only are those same scars there, but new pimples continues to form.  What in the heck is going on?  Why do these pimples keep coming, you ask?

Well, there’s a lot that can happen in the pores of an acne sufferer in about 90 of those days.  According to Dr. Robert Fulton, courtesy a report by Plewig and Kligman[1], the noninflammatory pathway of acne , in a process that takes about 90 days, micro-comedones mature into blackheads with very little follicular breakdown and inflammation.  In the inflammatory process, follicles break down quickly producing intensely inflamed lesions.  Mature blackheads never have time to form.  Probability of patients scarring from this response is very likely.  Whether someone has noninflammatory or inflammatory responses…it’s still a result of the same disease called Acne.  Typically, we advise clients that it can take up to 90 days for a pimple to form.  Therefore, we strongly encourage a treatment plan that can help combat the formation of new pimples while managing the existing scars on the skin.

The face and chest have a large number of pilosebaceous gland units that consists of a hair follicle, sebaceous gland and skin cells.  The sebaceous gland produces sebum, which keeps the hair and skin moisturized.  Skin cells shed and accumulate in the pores.  They tend to become more sticky as sebum production increases.  If the environment is ideal, the bacteria, P. acnes, typically resides in the pores.  Sebum nourishes P. acnes bacteria.  So the greater the sebum increase, the more P. acnes bacteria can be fed.  As the sebaceous material builds up, from the sebum and sloughed skin cells, inflammation develops in the cells surrounding the pore.  If the pore is closed, it’s known as a whitehead.  If the pore is open, it’s known as a blackhead.  The buildup can put pressure on the skin cells surrounding the pores.  Too much pressure can cause the pores to rupture and the sebaceous material, filled with P. acnes bacteria, can infect surrounding skin cells.  This can be seen on the surface of the skin in the form of…wait for it…a P-I-M-P-L-E!  At times it can be painful.  Othertimes, the sebaceous material and P. acnes bacteria leaks into the skin surrounding it, causing the infection to spread wider and deeper thus creating scarring.

So as you can see, the heat that the summer months bring coupled with the activities that take place inside of the pores on the skin can really make an acne sufferer feel like 90 of those 95 days are simply the “dog days of summer!”  So if you have allowed acne to ‘almost’ cancel your summer plans, find yourself a Certified Acne Specialist and leave the activities in the pores up to them.  You really have far too much to fit into these last days of Summer 2015.

[1] (Courtesy Plewig and Kligman, Acne:  Morphogenesis and Treatment [New York:  Springer-Verlag])

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