The disease called acne, or in common language, pimples, afflicts a goodly portion of the human race between the ages from 12 to 30. “Afflicts” is the right word. While it never kills, so far as anyone knows, nor even affects the bodily health badly, it causes as much mental anguish and unhappiness as far more serious things.
This is on account of the patient’s age and the location of acne, which is usually on the face. At the very time when a person wants to look the bestduring the mating seasonthis thing appears on the most conspicuous and most-desirable-to-be-kept beautiful, as the Germans would say, part of the anatomy. It makes the victims self-conscious and miserable and unhappy. And if there is added to this one of those humorous brothers-in-law in the household, the general result borders on tragedy.
Acne is a disease that is mostly treated at home; in fact, mostly self-treated and mostly over-treated.
Obviously, it is an infection. The pus pockets which form are certainly due to invasion by pus-forming germsperhaps a special form, the acne bacillus. But, obviously also, the constitution of the patient has something to do with it. The nature of the skin, the age, possibly the actions of the ductless glands. The fact that it so generally occurs in young people and so generally disappears with the advent of middle age, is enough to show what is meant by the age factor; certainly it never begins in a person past middle life.
The kind of skin is most important and probably has more to do with the causation of the disease than any other factor. Plants grow in their own kind of soils and climates; you can’t make a hard maple grow in Mississippi, or a cactus in Michigan, and the acne bacillus is no exception to this rule. The acne skin is greasy and fatty. There is a tendency to blackheads and a good deal of grease from the scalp. In these blackheads, the acne pustule is most likely to form.
In treatment, the condition of the skin should receive the greatest amount of the attention. The super-oily skin should be treated by gentle cleaning, without irritation, by the use of tincture of green soap, or if that is too irritating, an alkaline cleansing. Tar soap is often valuable and should not be avoided on account of the popular but erroneous impression that it causes the growth of hair. Almond meal rubbed on the skin tends to remove grease and soften the skin.
The second part of the general fundamental treatment of acne is the removal of blackheads with a comedone extractor. Here over-treatment can easily be a danger and, in general, if a course of black-head extracting leaves the skin irritated, it may be said to be overdone.
For the special treatment of the disease, no treatment that has been found is so effective as exposure to the x-ray. But be sure to employ an experienced operator.