Most Common Causes of Acne

Wondering about acne? We can help. Learn about the most common causes of acne

Here are the factors that might be causing your acne breakouts

At a certain age in many adolescent lives, we are plagued with a condition that turns our face into a swollen, red, bumpy, painful surface. For some, acne can be more than just a hormonal phase, but a continuous struggle to manage.

What is acne?

The skin condition we call acne, occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells, oil and other substances that land on your skin. The result is a bumpy surface filled with whiteheads, blackheads and pimples that can be painful and distracting.

Hair follicles exist all over your body, so acne can appear anywhere on the skin; it is most commonly found on the face, chest, back, and shoulders.

Though it is most common among teenagers, acne can affect people of all ages and can in some cases cause emotional and physical damage, scarring the skin.

What are the most common causes of acne?

The areas on the skin that have more oil glands, are more likely to experience pore clogging and acne. The oil glands are connected to the hair follicles, causing them to get plugged up. The appearance of whiteheads occur when the closed follicle wall bulges, producing what we call a whitehead. If the pore is open to the surface of the skin, the bacteria and oil clogging the pores will turn a dark brown when exposed to oxygen, creating a blackhead.

There are four main causes of acne, although acne is not limited to these four sources alone.

Excessive oil production: People who normally have more oily skin struggle with acne on and off throughout their lives. The more oil being produced, the more clogged the pores will become.

Clogged hair follicles: Oil glands attached to follicles transport dead skin cells to the surface of the skin and when the follicle gets blocked, a pimple is formed.

Bacteria: the amount of acne and how often it appears can depend on the strain of bacteria living on the skin. Not all bacteria will cause acne, in fact, some strains may help to keep the skin clear of acne.

Hormonal activity: Androgen is the type of hormone that rises during adolescence and eventually converts to estrogen in women. This increase in androgen causes oil glands to grow and produce more oil. Other changes in hormones can also increase oil production, such as pregnancy hormones and the use of oral contraceptives.

There are also many factors that can increase oil production or aggravate acne, triggering acne or making it worse.

  • Medications can have side effects that affect your oil production.
  • Poor diet or consuming certain foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates can have a negative affect.
  • Stress can create additional hormones to be produced that increase oil production.
  • Family history plays a role in the likelihood that you will have acne. If both of your parents had acne, you are a lot more likely to experience it yourself.
  • Greasy or oily substances, like certain lotions or creams. Certain cosmetics may not have a good effect on your skin type. Especially if you don’t wash your face and remove makeup every day.
  • Consistent friction on the skin from things like phones, hats, or purses. Anything that is putting pressure on one area of your skin for a long period of time can create a blockage in the pores, and if the object is a bacteria filled one, it’s a double whammy.


If you are struggling to get rid of acne, there are several remedies that may help. Be sure that you are washing your face every day and exfoliating a few times a week. Avoid oil based makeup and choose non-comedogenic cosmetics and acne-specific formulations. Rather than squeezing and trying to pop pimples on your own, which spreads more bacteria, use a spot treatment on the pimple to help clear it up quickly. In fact, avoid touching your face altogether to prevent bacteria from collecting. Reduce stress by practicing self-care and pay attention to what you are eating.

If you can’t get rid of the acne on your own, it may be time to consult a dermatologist.

Resources — Mayo Clinic, Medical News Today, Healthline

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