What Causes Acne?
Acne is a skin condition in which hair follicles become clogged. There are a variety of things that cause build-up. Oils and dead skin cells create pimples or zits.
An oil, known as Sebum, typically helps keep the skin from drying out. In healthy cases, this oil empties onto the skin surface through pores. When someone is experiencing breakouts, the sebaceous glands are not able to release this sebum in a healthy way. Keratinocytes are a type of skin cell that rises to the surface of the skin when the body sheds skin cells. When a person is suffering from acne, these shedding skin cells stick together. The dead skin cells and the sebum oil are trapped in the skin. Bacteria forms within the skin and produces inflammation.
People suffering from acne may experience redness, heat, swelling, and even pain, depending on the severity of their condition. Everyone is susceptible to acne – some battle a chronic condition while others experience minor breakouts from time to time. Acne is prevalent amongst teens and young adults. It is more common in teenage males, but it often affects females during earlier stages of life as well. In some cases, it can continue into adulthood. Adult acne is more common among women.
Types of Acne
- Whiteheads. This occurs when a hair follicle becomes trapped underneath the skin. It appears as a white bump.
- Blackheads. This condition occurs when follicles reach the surface and open up on the skin. A common misconception is that blackheads get their dark discoloration from being dirty. However, the black appearance is due to the air changing the color of the sebum.
- Papules. This type of acne is due to inflamed lesions on the skin. Papules can be painful or tender to the touch and they appear as small, pink-colored bumps.
- Pustules or pimples. When a papule becomes filled with pus, a pimple will form. It is typically red at the base.
- Nodules. Lesions that form deep within the skin are nodules. Generally, they are painful, solid, and larger than other forms of acne.
Causes of Acne
There are a variety of reasons someone may be suffering from acne. We’ve seen the science behind the skin’s production of excess oil, the buildup of dead skin cells, and bacteria growth, and how it results in acne. But what factors trigger this problem and contribute to this condition?
- Hormones. Hormones stimulate your skin’s oil glands and play a huge role in acne development. Typically, androgens are thought of as a male hormone. However, females have testosterone as well, just in lower doses. These hormones are what stimulate the glands to produce sebum. Puberty and pregnancy affect hormone levels in the body, often resulting in acne.
- Genetics. Acne can be hereditary. Researchers and doctors believe that if your parents had acne, you are more likely to get it as well.
- Medications. Certain medications invoke changes to the body’s hormones, and in turn, create acne.
- Age. It is no surprise that age affects acne. Many people relate their teen years and puberty to the annoyance of dealing with acne. This is mostly due to changing hormones and often less than ideal diet.
- Stress. There really is stress acne! Stress typically dries the skin, causing excess oil production. It also alters hormone levels in the body, and when prolonged can change your brain and body chemistry.
Don’t Make Your Acne Worse…
Some factors are not linked to the cause of acne, but certainly affect the severity of it. Researchers are continuing to study the impact that an individual’s diet has on the overall health of their skin. Studies have shown that there are certain foods with negative consequences when it comes to acne. Stress levels and hormone changes go hand in hand. An excessive amount of sudden or prolonged stress can alter the body’s chemistry and hormone levels. Clothing can also make acne worse. Certain items such as sports helmets, tight clothing, and backpacks can worsen its appearance. As one may imagine, irritating the condition can influence the severity of an acne breakout. This includes squeezing, picking, and harsh scrubbing of the skin.
Tips for Preventing or Limiting Acne Breakouts
Although there are instances in which acne is inevitable, there are steps one can take to prevent the likelihood of it. Anyone suffering from acne knows how much of a struggle it can be to have healthy skin. Below are tips one can take to manage their skin’s condition and reduce the occurrence and severity of breakouts:
- Properly wash your face
- Educate yourself – know your skin type
- Moisturize – even if you think your skin is too oily. Water based gel moisturizers are best as they don’t add oil to your skin.
- Utilize over the counter treatments
- Hydrate – drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces to stay properly hydrated, more if you participate in vigorous exercise or are exposed to higher temperatures.
- Limit the makeup you use. Try not to wear it everyday and remove it as soon as you are home for the day.
- Avoid touching your face
- Limit sun exposure
- Avoid irritating the skin – no squeezing or picking at it
- Tea tree oil is said to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that calm redness and swelling associated with acne breakouts.
- Avoid processed foods, dairy, refined sugars, and alcohol
- Engage in stress-reducing activities – yoga or any type of exercise is a great start.
In the best cases, pimples simply cause annoyance. Worse case, they can cause pain, scarring, anxiety, and even depression. For those who struggle with chronic acne, remaining patient and consistent in skincare is important.
If you notice your acne condition worsening over time even while following many of the suggestions above, it may be time to visit a professional dermatologist. Treatment options are available! Consult a dermatologist for the best advice regarding your situation. Our dermatologists have successfully treated hundreds of patients for acne and other skin ailments. Contact our office for an appointment.