Acne is one of the most common skin problems that everyone faces, regardless of gender, race, age, social class, or ethnicity. So a lot of people – from a hormone-filled teenager to your source-of-wisdom grandmother to various skin experts worldwide – have constantly searched for answers as to what really causes acne. Surely, you have encountered one or two persons who have told you that acne is caused by eating chocolates and greasy food, or due to stress, and a lot of other plausible and seemingly funny reasons.
The exact cause of acne (or more to the point, the reason it emerges in a particular individual) remains unknown. Be assured, however, that there are several factors that can help explain why acne develops.
Several factors have been identified as either causes of acne or those that can worsen it. A major factor common to almost all studies is rising hormone levels. Prevalent during puberty, hormones called androgens or the male sex hormones, increase in teenage boys and girls which causes their sebaceous glands to enlarge and produce more sebum.
Changing hormone levels in girls and women can also trigger acne breakouts two to seven days before their menstrual period. Pregnancy and the use of birth control pills also strike hormonal changes that can cause acne. During times of stress, the body produces increased levels of hormones which cause even greater enlargement of oil glands.
Heredity or genetics also plays a major role in developing (or not developing) acne. Some studies show that school-age boys with acne have family members or relatives who have also had a similar experience. So, if mom or dad (or both) had acne, chances are that you could be at a higher risk of developing it also. Some researchers have gone so far as to suggest that the more genetically predisposed you are to developing acne, the more stubborn and difficult it can be to treat.
On the other hand, there are also plenty of people with acne breakouts whose parents are acne-free. It is probably most likely that, as with many health issues, genetic predisposition can play a part in determining whether an individual will develop a particular complaint. However other issues such as lifestyle, environment, and management of risk factors can also have a significant effect on the outcome for that individual.
Certain drugs, cosmetic products, creams, and ointments are known to cause or contribute to acne as well. Greasy cosmetics, particularly moisturizers, will definitely lead to a breakout if applied to skin that is prone to acne. In fact any oil-based (or otherwise thick or heavy) cosmetics or skin ‘care’ products that have a tendency to block the pores can trigger acne if you have the type of skin that lends itself to acne.
Other examples of products that can bring out the worst in acne-prone skin include progesterone-based contraceptives, steroid creams, some ointments for eczema, and anti-epileptics.
Friction caused by tight collars, excessive exfoliating of the skin (particularly the facial area), or even bike helmets (or other clothing or devices which trap sweat and dirt close against the skin), are known to worsen acne. Environmental factors like pollution and high humidity also have a hand in causing and worsening acne.
The best advice for those suffering from acne is to limit any known causes or aggravating factors for the condition, and take up implementation of those remedies that are known to provide relief. While some may be more at risk of suffering from this ailment, their skin’s condition can always be optimized through thoughtful and consistent treatment.