Causes of Acne
Acne is caused when tiny holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, become blocked.
Sebaceous glands are tiny glands found near the surface of your skin. The glands are attached to hair follicles, which are small holes in your skin that an individual hair grows out of. Sebaceous glands lubricate the hair and the skin to stop it drying out. They do this by producing an oily substance called sebum.
In acne, the glands begin to produce too much sebum. The excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and both substances form a plug in the follicle. If the plugged follicle is close to the surface of the skin, it bulges outwards, creating a white head Alternatively, the plugged follicle can be open to the skin, creating a blackhead. Normally harmless bacteria that live on the skin can then contaminate and infect the plugged follicles, causing papules, pustules, nodules or cysts.
Acne is most commonly linked to the changes in hormone levels during puberty but can start at any age.
Certain hormones such as testosterone cause the grease-producing glands next to hair follicles in the skin to produce larger amounts of oil (abnormal sebum).
This abnormal sebum changes the activity of a usually harmless skin bacterium called P. acnes, which becomes more aggressive and causes inflammation and pus.
The hormones also thicken the inner lining of the hair follicle, causing blockage of the pores (opening of the hair follicles). Cleaning the skin doesn’t help to remove this blockage.
Other possible causes:
- Acne is known to run in families. If both your mother and father had acne, it’s likely that you’ll also have acne.
- Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, can also lead to episodes of acne in women.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome is another cause – a common condition that can cause acne, weight gain and the formation of small cysts inside the ovary.
There’s no evidence that diet, poor hygiene or sexual activity play a role in acne. Other possible triggers of an acne flare-up include:
Some cosmetic products – however, this is less common as most products are now tested, so they don’t cause spots (non-comedogenic)
- Certain medications – such as steroid medications, lithium (used to treat depression and bipolar disorder) and some anti-epileptic drugs (used to treat epilepsy)
- Regularly wearing items that place pressure on an affected area of skin, such as a headband or backpack
- Smoking – which can contribute to acne in older people