Over 80% of adult acne conditions appear in women, and it is thought that the majority of cases are caused by hormonal changes. For women, these happen regularly just before their period, during a pregnancy, or with hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Other possible causes of acne are medications (lithium and some anti-epileptic drugs), smoking, cosmetic products (although this cause is rare), and regularly wearing a piece of clothing or accessory on the same area of the skin (a sweatband, bandana, or backpack).
Acne is caused by blockages in the hair follicles, which occur when your sebaceous glands produce too much sebum and form a plug, which mixes with dead skin cells and leads to spots. When the bacteria naturally living on the skin contaminate the follicle, you will see the more painful or severe forms of acne, such as papules, pustules, nodules or cysts.
The claims that acne is caused by poor diet, lack of hygiene, sexual activity, or that it is contagious, are not supported by research. Excessive washing of your face (more than twice a day), or washing with excessively cold or hot water could actually aggravate symptoms.
Squeezing spots or blackheads can make them worse or cause scarring. The diagnosis of acne follows a doctors examination of the skin affected, and an evaluation of the different types of spot that are appearing. The main types of spot caused by acne are blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. Cysts are the most severe form of acne, and can cause scarring.
What to do next
Acne is graded to measure its severity, from 1 to 4. There are several options available for treatment which can help manage symptoms.
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No. It is important to keep your skin clean, but this will not prevent the appearance of new spots, and washing too much can actually make acne worse. Be careful not to rub or scrub the skin, as this can irritate it further.
It is best not to. Squeezing them can spread the bacteria in the pores and actually make them worse. Squeezing spots can also cause bleeding and lead to scarring.
In case of more severe acne symptoms, a doctor will be able to help you with regard to the best method of treatment, and discuss how to avoid scarring and manage the condition.