The acne cycle

Acne vulgaris, also simply known as acne, is one of the most common skin conditions in the United States. If you suffer from acne, you know it goes beyond just a few spots on your face. Acne can affect every area of your life and make you feel alone, insecure, and even depressed. And it’s not as though breakouts go away overnight. A pimple’s life cycle is four to five days to form fully — and then another four to five days to heal. But the good news is, there are treatments that can help you get your acne under control. Let’s break it down for you.

How acne forms

A clogged pore forms when pores (which are also our hair follicles) become filled with oil, dead skin cells, and other debris. There are comedones, what you probably call blackheads and whiteheads. When these comedones get then invaded by p. Acnes bacteria, they can turn into pimples — small red bumps (papules), pus-filled bumps (pustules), nodules (large, painful bumps underneath the skin), or cystic lesions, which are a lot like nodules except they contain pus. When you see more inflamed breakout on your skin, it’s usually gone through four stages to get to its current state.

The early stages of a pimple

The first stage is the start of clogged pores — blackheads or whiteheads. Your skin cells are constantly renewing, and when old cells die off, they shed. The result is fresh, new skin about every month or so. However, if you’re acne-prone, these dead cells mix with the natural oil, called sebum, on your skin. This mixture becomes sticky, and starts to clump together inside your pore.

The middle stages of a pimple

The next stage in the formation of acne is the overproduction of oil. The question is, why are you producing so much? Basically, androgen hormones stimulate the release of sebum from the sebaceous glands that are attached to your pores. Things like puberty or emotional stress can increase androgen levels, causing you to produce more oil, which leads to more clogged pores. Think of it like there’s a stopper, or plug, trapping gunk inside your pore. As you continue to produce more oil than your skin needs, it gradually becomes trapped behind the plug, which builds pressure and causes irritation.

At this point, the P. acnes bacteria, which naturally grow on your skin, start to find your clogged pores because they love to feed on all that oil and dead skin cell debris. As a result, they start to breed inside your clogged pore. This process is considered stage three on the path to breakouts. If the bacteria and sebum remain trapped below the skin surface, a whitehead forms. If the pore opens up, the sebum, which contains the skin pigment melanin, oxidizes and turns blackish, and a blackhead develops.

The final stages of a pimple

Finally, stage four occurs because the bacteria continue to feed on your oil. As they do, they release byproducts your body recognizes as foreign invaders, causing it to produce an immune response. White blood cells rush to the infected area, and this is what causes that swelling, redness, and inflammation. The end result? Those throbbing, red, tender papules and pustules, aka pimples.

Is it possible to shorten the life cycle of a pimple?

Now that you know more about the different pimples stages, you understand that the acne cycle doesn’t occur overnight. It’s a slow process that occurs over time, well beneath the surface and well before the breakout appears on your face or body. Proactiv skincare goes to work early in the cycle to help prevent clogged pores and prevent breakouts which helps break the acne cycle. Nothing can cure acne, but with the daily use of proactiv, you can help treat mild to moderate acne and prevent future breakouts.

What are the best ways to prevent future breakouts?

If you want to know how to prevent breakouts, then you’ve got to be willing to make some lifestyle changes along with sticking to your skincare routine — day and night.

  • Hands off: Our hands come in contact with everything from dirty electronics to public transportation to greasy finger food. Keep your fingers off your face to prevent the spread of bacteria, which will only cause more breakouts.
  • Don’t pick or pop: It can be tempting to want to pop a pimple from time to time, but try to resist the urge. Along with spreading bacteria and causing future breakouts, you also risk making a pimple worse by causing a rupture underneath the skin.
  • Practice good hygiene: Regularly change your towels and sheets, pull your hair back away from your face when sleeping, and of course, always wash your face before bed no matter how tired you are. It’s also vital that you’re consistent with your routine to see the best results.
  • Eat clean: While it’s a myth that chocolate or greasy foods cause acne, there’s no denying that foods with high glycemic indexes can lead to an increase of oil production and therefore, more breakouts. For others, dairy has been found to link to breakouts. Generally speaking, eating a clean, healthy, well-balanced diet promotes good skin health.

The final word

  • Acne is a complicated skin condition that begins inside the pores.
  • The acne cycle starts weeks before pimples surface.
  • Clogged pores, oil secretion, bacterial overgrowth, and inflammation all contribute to acne.
  • Proactiv addresses each step of the acne cycle, including the stages of acne healing.
  • Proactiv attacks existing acne and helps keep you from breaking out in the future.