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Acne, like many other skin conditions, is surrounded by different myths. However, we cannot completely ignore the myths to focus on the facts.
Many believe that acne is contagious and can be transferred from one person through skin contact with a healthy person.
If you have acne and are scared of moving close to someone who does not, we have answers to your many questions below.
Is Acne Contagious?
Acne is a non-contagious skin condition. However, beneath lies something much more than meets the eye. The universal truth is that you cannot contact acne by hugging or shaking hands with someone who has it.
Unlike flu and other contagious diseases, acne is not transferable through physical means. Hence, you can share the same towel with someone who has it without having acne breakouts yourself.
In contrast, acne is a recurring skin condition in many, that is caused by something beyond physical touch. So, rest assured that you won’t catch acne from someone that has it.
How Do You Really Get Acne?
Since we have established that acne is not contagious, this is how you get acne. Acne occurs at different stages of people’s life. However, it is more prominent in teenagers who are advancing into puberty. Apart from this, it is common during menstruation and pregnancy. The reason is that all of these stages are periods when hormonal activities are at their highest.
You see, your body is covered with pores where the hair grows out of by using the follicles as the channels. Hence, the pores connect the skin surface to the glands below the skin.
One prominent gland beneath the skin is called the sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland is responsible for producing oil or sebum to keep the skin refreshed and prevent it from drying out.
Sebum or oil is usually released in small amounts to the skin via the hair follicle. However, it is not just oil that is transported to the skin through the follicles. Dead skin cells also use the follicles as they medium of moving to the skin surface.
However, it is not uncommon for the oil gland to produce too much than is needed by the body. When there is excess production, the overflow of oil can be too much for the follicle to transport.
Remember, dead skin cells also use the channel as a means of transport. Hence, when there is too much oil, it can mix with the dead skin cells to form a tiny lump. In an attempt to transport the mixture, the hair follicle can become clogged.
Like a jammed freeway, you need to back off and find an alternative route. Unfortunately, there is no alternative route here. Hence, the clog will prevent further transport of oil and dead skin cells to the surface.
However, the story does not get better. There is a bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes that lives close to the skin’s surface. When the bacteria mixes with the clog, it provides an excellent breeding ground for multiplication.
The bacteria then create an anaerobic environment where it can thrive at the detriment of the pore lining. When it irritates the lining, it can create redness and cause inflammation.
Sometimes, pus forms in the swelling, depending on the severity of the acne. Hence, it takes the combined effort of excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria to cause acne. Apart from this, other causes are associated with hormonal fluctuations.
Pregnancy, Menstruation, And Breastfeeding
Some women have acne breakouts during pregnancy or menstruation. The reason is that, during this period, the androgen and progesterone hormones increase significantly. As a result, it can cause the oil glands to produce more oil than is needed to prepare the cervix for delivery or make room for the fetus.
Not just this, since the body expels less water during pregnancy, it can be hard to get rid of toxins. Hence, the toxins can sometimes be lodged in the pores and block.
However, pregnancy acne disappears by itself after birth when the hormonal levels are back to normal.
Emotional And Physical Stress
Emotional stress can also cause biological changes that can increase your risk of a breakout.
For example, when you are scared and anxious, your adrenal glands are prompted to make more cortisol deal with the stress. However, it can cause an imbalance.
Not just this, physical stress can also weaken your immunity and cause inflammations. It can be from lack of sleep, extreme weather, dehydration, and environmental irritants.
Excessive smoking is also known to cause acne.
Diary, fast foods, and sweet foods are also known to cause acne.
Sweet foods raise blood sugar, and the body releases insulin in response. However, too much insulin will cause the sebum glands to produce more oil.
Hence, it will be easier for dead skin cells to stick to the oil and clog the pores.
Likewise, fast foods, highly-glycemic diets, and refined carbohydrates also contain saturated fats that can affect hormonal balance.
Food and acne relationship secrets are simple; any food that can affect hormonal balance and prompt the oil gland to produce more oil can cause acne.
I have compiled a list of the best and the worst foods to include in the acne diet plan.
If Acne Is Not Contagious, Is It Hereditary?
There is no acne gene. However, acne sometimes runs in the family, especially if either parent has severe acne growing up or presently.
Hence, although no gene can be held responsible for acne, it can be hereditary. Unique genetic mutations may also increase your risk of developing genetic acne, depending on how your immune system responds.
For example, some families have a hereditary tendency to produce dead skin cells in excess. As a result, it can cause the pores to become clogged.
Apart from this, some families also have a genetic tendency to produce excess oil. Since they will naturally have oily skin, it can trap more bacteria and cause occasional breakouts.
Your genes may increase your risk factor to develop acne. This is because the genes modify the skin’s physiology and determine sensitivity to hormones, among other factors. It also affects how the body responds to inflammation caused by bacteria and influences the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Hence, it is safe to say that acne can be genetic.
If both or one of your parents had severe acne either in adulthood or adolescence, you would risk acne breakouts. However, it can be possible that both parents will possess varied genetic components.
For example, if one parent has a hormonal condition that makes you acne-prone, the other can pass a stronger inflammatory response to bacteria over to you. Hence, the narrative is better if one parent has acne and not both parents.
So, acne can be genetic; however, it is not contagious. You don’t get it from sitting to close or shaking hands with a person. You also won’t get it if someone who has it sneezes beside you.
Can I Treat Acne?
Acne can be treated; however, the treatment options depend on the severity.
For example, mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter medications prescribed by a doctor. However, severe acne conditions require a more hands-on approach. For example, nodular acne and cyst can be very painful and often require medical intervention.
In the worst case, the doctor might recommend peeling or surgery to remove the lump. Good news, though, it always does not get to that point.
True, there is no cure for acne; however, your dermatologist can develop a treatment plan to help you clear your skin. There are several home remedies for acne like aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, and green tea extract that work really well. You can also try zinc, vitamin A, probiotics, and tea tree oil.
If you need over-the-counter prescriptions, it should be supervised by a doctor. The reason is that certain medications should not be used to treat acne, especially if you are pregnant or young. Hence, you shouldn’t take any medication without supervision.
Acne Treatment Tips
- Gently wash your face at least twice daily and rinse with warm water. Be careful not to scrub as scrubbing can irritate your skin. Instead, pat it dry.
- Avoid touching your skin frequently as you can transfer bacteria to your pores when you touch your skin with unwashed hands.
- Don’t wear tight chin straps, bras, and clothing that can irritate the skin. Not just this, choose your beauty products carefully and avoid the ones labeled as comedogenic. Comedogenic beauty products can cause acne.
- More importantly, don’t squeeze or pop acne regardless of the location. Popping your acne can irritate it further until it transforms into a more aggressive type. Plus, it can introduce bacteria to your hands, and you can infect other places. It can also cause scarring and make the healing process longer.
Acne is not contagious. Hence, if you have a friend with acne, you can’t catch it from them. If you have it, you won’t pass it to them. However, we recommend that you see professional help for examination, recommendations, and treatment options.