Acne is caused by a myriad of factors. These include hyperactive oil glands, raging hormones, stress, fatty foods, certain drugs, dirt, bacteria, and pore-clogging cosmetics. Did you know that your place of work can be a source of acne too? This is especially true for people who work in jobs where they are constantly exposed to chemicals. These chemicals can block and irritate the skin, causing lesions that look like severe acne. Here is a rundown of the different types of occupational acne:
Chloracne or Halogen Acne
Workers exposed to halogens, especially different forms of chlorinated compounds (chloronapthalenes, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzofurans or PCDFs, and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins or PCDDs) are prone to develop yellowish acne cysts with grey plugs in the middle. These develop as oily halogen compounds form a plug with dead cells and keratin in the skin. The face, hands, and arms are particularly at risk to developing chloracne. This type of occupational acne is dangerous as it can persist for years and the halogen can stay in the system leading to complications such as liver disease and nervous system poisoning. Some of the professions vulnerable to getting this type of disease include chemical plant workers, laboratory personnel, maintenance personnel, and waste handlers.
Coal tar acne develops after prolonged exposure to coal-tar products such as coal tar oils, pitch, and creosote. The coal-tar compounds make its way to the pores, forming a black plug mixed with dead skin cells and keratin. Skin exposed to these chemicals is at risk for developing coal-tar acne, especially the face and arms. If not treated properly, coal-tar acne can develop into skin cancer. People who work in coal tar plants, conduit manufacturing, construction, paper tube impregnation, road paving, roofing, and wood and cable preservation are especially at risk to develop this type of occupational acne.
Machine-tool operators, mechanics, and workers exposed to petroleum products and its derivatives (crude oil, cuttings oils) are especially at risk to develop oil acne. This condition develops when petrol chemicals make its way to the skin, clogging the pores and causing small black spots and blister-like lesions. The hands and arms are especially prone to oil acne. Even the abdomen and thighs can develop oil acne from oil-stained work clothes. This condition can persist for months and can even develop into skin cancer if not treated properly.
How to Treat Occupational Acne
Once the telltale signs of occupational acne show up, it is best to go to a dermatologist to have it treated. You should also immediately stop exposing yourself to the chemical irritant that is causing the acne. Workers should be thoroughly protected from hazardous chemicals by the provision of clean work clothes as well as goggles, aprons, and gloves. Facilities such as showers and changing rooms are a must-have for these work places. Adequate exhaust systems should also be ensured so that contact with dangerous chemicals is minimized.
Workers can also protect themselves through good personal hygiene such as daily bathing, constant washing of hands, and changing work clothes daily. Getting a daily dose of vitamins and nutrients that protect the skin and boost the immune system will also help arm the body against chemical exposure. These can be obtained from fruits and vegetables as well as acne vitamin supplements. Pantothenic acid acne supplements are a good start as this can help control the hormones that cause the skin to break out with acne as well as help in the regeneration and repair of skin cells. Combined with safe work practices, good personal hygiene and a healthy diet, workers exposed to even the grimiest jobs can safeguard themselves against occupational acne.