Anatomy of a Pimple

The medical term for breakouts is Acne Vulgaris. All in all, it’s a pretty spot on description (pardon the pun). Acne is an irritating, painful, and downright vulgar attack on your skin. And it can be harder to get rid of than a bad credit score.

Of course, you don’t have to walk around with 575 tattooed on your forehead, so in some ways, acne is an even bigger pain in the butt.

But just what is a pimple? The actual anatomy of a zit can be downright gross. But if you’re an acne sufferer, it’s important to know exactly what causes those unsightly blemishes in the first place.

The skin on your face consists of millions of follicles, and each one contains a tiny hair. Those same follicles exude sweat, water, and a fatty oil called sebum. As long as all of this stuff flows freely out of your follicles, your skin will stay smooth and your complexion clear.

There are times, however, when everything does not exit the follicle completely. Sebum, skin oil, and sweat can get trapped below the surface of the skin. This back up produces a white head. When that same gunk breaks through the surface, contact with oxygen turns it dark, and a blackhead is born.

When too much of this backed up junk accumulates, the pressure under the skin grows, stretching out the walls of a follicle. This gives bacteria a chance to multiply inside the clogged follicle. This is what’s known as a comedo— one of those big, scary pimples that give you nightmares.

If the walls of the follicle actually rupture, then your immune system responds by sending an army of cells to attack the bacteria inside the comedo. This is when the skin surrounding that pimple becomes red, swollen, and tender to the touch. You might even start seeing pus develop as the war between the immune cells and dead bacteria rages on.

So there you have it… the truth about how pimples are born.


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