Most teenagers and young adults are familiar with acne, because 80 percent of them develop it between the ages of 11 and 30, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many struggle with pimples without fully understanding the cause. Chocolate, a greasy diet and dirt have all been implicated, but the Office on Women's Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says they're really not to blame. if you're looking for a culprit, blame your hair follicles.
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Pimples start their life cycle deep in the hair follicles. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains these follicles are surrounded by oil-producing sebaceous glands. Acne usually starts during puberty, when hormones called androgens cause accelerated oil production. Dead skin cells and bacteria blend with the oil to partially or fully block the follicles. The bacteria grow inside the follicles, inflaming them. An incomplete blockage turns into a pimple called a whitehead, while a complete blockage becomes a blackhead. Infected pimples fill with pus.
Hair contributes to acne in another way. In fact, sweat makes skin more likely to break out. Long hair causes the face to sweat if it hangs down and has continuous contact with the skin. Tight hats and hair bands can also trigger or worsen outbreaks, because they cause sweat and irritation. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that any kind of pressure and friction can worsen the condition.
Acne can only develop on skin that contains hair follicles. This prevents it from breaking out on the hands or soles of the feet. It is most prevalent on the face, chest, neck, back and shoulders because those areas have plentiful hair follicles and sebaceous glands, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The American Academy of Dermatology cites benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid as two popular acne-remedy ingredients. Both can be found in over-the-counter products. Benzoyl peroxide attacks bacteria and keeps old skin cells from plugging up the hair follicles. Salicylic acid slows skin-cell shedding and unclogs hair follicles to ease outbreaks and prevent new ones.
You can prevent acne by tying back your hair if it is long or having it cut into a style that keeps it from sitting against your face. Take a shower after physical activity that plasters sweaty hair against your body.