Creating Waves of Awareness
Investigating the historical evidence regarding any subject, from the oldest possible literature to the most recent, helps us to understand the evolution of the concept. We gather the scattered references of the subject so that a firm platform can be made on which further plan and design to work on that particular subject becomes easier.
Ancient historical records tell us that King Tut's tomb had remedies to fight the skin disease we now call acne. In the fourth century A.D, the court physician of Theodosius I, Marcellus Bordeaux, advised acne victims to wipe their pimples with a cloth while watching a falling star; the pimples then `fall from your body." (Essays on an information scientist. Vol 5, 1981-82).
The importance and number of texts written to enhance looks and create beautiful skin found in ancient literature seems limitless. As an example, Ramayana and Mahabharta tell the story of Lord Ramchandra during his fourteen years of exile in the forest. They say he used latex from the Banyan tree for clearing his skin. Narration of the bride Draupadi during the time of swayamwar is another example outlining the cosmetic sensibilities that existed at during that period in time.
The Vedas, the oldest record of Aryan wisdom and in turn of medical thoughts mention that acne existed in the Vedic kala (10,000 B.C to 500 B.C) and Samhita kala (200B.C to 400A.D) eras as Youvan Pidika*. Detailed descriptions of Youvan Pidika and its management in the form of Vaman Karma and Lepa Vidhi can be found in book of Aruyvedic Medicine, Samhita Kala. First description of acne in the Sushrut Samhita can be located under Kshudra Roga as Mukha Dushika.
The authors described acne as "Circular swelling like pinda (papule, pustule, nodule etc) occurring on the face in youth is Youvan Pidika". The term Youvan Pidika is made with two Sanskrit words Youvan and Pidika. Youvan is used in the sense of adult or young. The meaning of Pidika is a painful eruption.
Thus acne has been defined in Ayurveda as the eruption like Salmali thorn, on the face during adulthood, caused by Kapha, Vata and Raktam, also known as Youvan Pidika (Acne).
Modern Point of View
The word acne has two types of etymological origins. Skinner repaired that Hippocrates, to identify the lint or anything that is coming out of the surface used a word "AXYN". In this sense the word went into disease, which can be clear from the Hooper's edition of Quincy's medical dictionary (published in 1802) where the word acne has appeared in the list chaff, scum or ling.
The Age of Acne
Regarding the second derivation Stedma, Murray and Durglison have opined that this word seems to be originated form "Akme" which means the highest point. According to these authorities, the word acne is a corrupt form of word Akme. The acne is supposed to refer to youth or the prime period of the life. Acne is a condition specifically related to young age and it affects the person during the most youthful and beautiful period of life. Modern science was conscious about the disease from very early age, but pathology behind it was not fully understood. They had considered the eruptions on the face are due to blockage of the mouth of sweat duct by the hair. After the invention of bacteria by Louis Pasture, the disease was considered to be produced by the bacteria.
Longley was the person, who stated the retained sebum in oil glands in course of the disease. This occluded sebum causes irritation, inflammation and interference to bacteria and the inflammation results into pus formation.
Although the causative factors of the disease are not clearly known, many domestic preparations to cure the disease were in practice. The Greek physician Galen invented the first facial cream dated back to about 150 A.D. An emulsion of cream by incorporating rose water in a molten mixture of bee's wax and olive oil was prepared.
Ancient Egyptians also used zinc oxide and its other derivatives to treat acne. When usefulness of local application came forward, Sulphur was used in the form of lotions, emulsions and ointments. It was found to reduce the oily nature of skin and bacterial infection was also controlled preventing the spread of pimples.
*Aruyvedic: There are couples of conditions which resemble acne or pimples one or the other way. They include black or white heads, pustules, congested pores and cysts in terms of deep pimples or advanced pimples. Ayurveda narrates this problem as per its name that is youvan pidika (youvan refers to youth and pidika refers to pustule giving trouble).