Though it's commonly associated with adolescence, acne is a nightmare for teenagers and adults alike. White heads, black heads, pimples, zits, cysts -- there are many names for the embarrassing, but unavoidable, inflammation of the skin's oil pores. By any name, it's a condition you'd rather do without. Despite the countless research hours that have gone into studying acne, we still can't pinpoint a single cause; perhaps there isn't one. We do know that it's the result of disturbances of the skin's oil pores. We also know that overproduction of skin oil can cause the pores to become blocked, which can lead to the growth of the acne bacteria at the pore. Once the bacteria is on the scene, it attracts white blood cells to help fight back. This is what ultimately causes the inflammation that we refer to as a pimple.
Blocked pores, dirty pores and an excess of oil production can all lead to acne. Some people may notice that exercise and perspiration causes an outbreak. There's long been a rumor that a good sweat will actually clean out your pores, but science says that's not the case. Sweat glands and oil pores are two different things, so not only does sweat not clean out oil pores, but it might actually make things worse. For one, irritants like dust and dirt are more likely to stick to moist skin, which can lead to clogged pores.
Combine sweat with friction and you have what's known as acne mechanica. People who engage in activities where sweat and friction are combined often suffer from this common form of acne. "Soldier's acne" is associated with heavy sweat combined with the rubbing of a backpack on the shoulders and back. "Fiddler's neck" is acne that a violinist gets from the constant rubbing of the instrument under the player's chin. Athletes who wear headgear like football helmets and baseball caps might notice acne on the forehead. And if you work out in tight-fitting clothing, you might find acne where your clothes are most snug.
To avoid acne mechanica, wear loose fitting clothing if you know you'll be perspiring. Pick workout clothes that are made with fabrics that help to wick sweat away from the skin. After your workout, or simply following a good sweat, take a shower to wash away all the dirt and grime that has built up on your moist skin. Avoid scrubbing your skin and face too hard, though; that irritation can also cause an acne outbreak.