Tar Acne: What is it?

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Tar acne is caused by direct exposure to tar, oil, or creosote, leading to clogged pores and bacterial infections. It can lead to scarring, skin discoloration, and skin cancer if left untreated. Workers in certain industries are most at risk, and prevention involves limiting skin exposure and wearing protective clothing. Tar acne should be treated by a dermatologist to prevent long-lasting and recurring infections.

Tar acne is a form of occupational acne caused by direct exposure of the skin to tar, oil or creosote. It is characterized by small inflamed lesions with raised black centers. This type of acne can occur when the oil glands in the skin are clogged with small amounts of tar, causing the pores to become infected. The black plugs common to tar acne are made of tar mixed with dead skin cells. Left untreated, tar acne can lead to scarring, skin discoloration, or skin cancer.

Like many other forms of acne, tar acne occurs when pores containing sebaceous glands are blocked. The primary function of the sebaceous glands is to produce oil, which is transported to the skin’s surface through the hair follicles. If the follicle is blocked, oil builds up under the skin and promotes the growth of bacteria that feed on the oil, causing the follicle to become infected and inflamed. The blockage formed by tar-based products is much longer lasting than the temporarily clogged pores caused by dirt and skin cell growth that cause common acne. This leads to longer lasting and recurring infections, which can persist for some time after the initial exposure.

Tar acne outbreaks are most common around the eyes, where the skin’s natural folds and creases encourage the buildup of tarry substances. Less frequently, outbreaks can occur on any area of ​​skin subjected to repeated exposure to tar products. Workers most at risk are those in the construction, flooring, roofing and wood preservation industries, due to frequent exposure to tar and creosote.

The best method of preventing tar acne is to limit direct skin exposure to tar-based substances. Workers who are exposed to tar during their work should wear protective clothing and goggles. Fabrics impregnated with tar-based substances should be cleaned or discarded, as they can bring the tar into close contact with the skin for extended periods of time. Tar acne breakouts should be treated by a dermatologist, as most acne home remedies are designed to kill the bacteria that cause acne lesions and have little effect on the plugs themselves.

Left untreated, infected follicles can eventually heal around the tar plugs, trapping the tar within the skin. Since tar is carcinogenic, this can lead to skin cancer. If tar acne is exposed to the sun, it can cause an overproduction of melanin around the affected area, leading to a darkening of the skin surrounding the lesions. The long-lasting and recurring nature of untreated lesions often results in heavy scarring.

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