What Causes Acne And How Acne Develops
Acne is called ‘common acne’ because really, of all skin diseases, acne is indeed the most common and nearly everyone suffers from some kind of acne from whiteheads, blackheads, pimples to the awfully painful ones called acne cysts. And what causes acne?
Whiteheads and blackheads are the very ‘early stages’ of acne. Whiteheads and blackheads begin to form in our skin when too much sebum (skin’s natural oil) starts to build up in our skin’s sebaceous glands and eventually blocks our pores (tiny openings on our skin where hair comes out from). This is a simple picture of what causes acne in very early stage.
What causes acne to be in ’mild stages’ is when these blocked pores or openings remain small, the clogs become whiteheads. But when these pores become bigger, we get blackheads on our skin. These ‘heads’ are called comedomes or in simple words, acne that is not inflamed.
Then what causes acne to be in ’serious stages’ is when comedomes become inflamed, swollen, red pimples or pustules. Then these pustules become deeper, redder, more swollen and inflamed lumps called nodules – the worst of all acne develops – this is the most dreadful, most unbearable and most painful acne called acne cysts which take the longest time to totally heal and clear off.
Acne usually develops on the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back. It is often a painful and embarrassing situation for acne sufferers. We can try best to cover our bodies but how can we cover our face? Other than physical pain on their skin, the worst pain is the deep emotional pain they have to carry or bear with.
Who Can Get Acne
Acne commonly begins at puberty (ages 10 and 13), right through adolescence and adulthood – if the acne sufferer does not outgrow acne or get healed. And 20% adults get acne where by women are more likely than men to get mild acne. But when statistics compare teenage girls and teenage boys, the boys tend to get acne more than the girls. And for the ‘luckier’ acne sufferers, acne goes away by the time they are in their 20s. Then some are free from acne all the way throughout their teenage years, but gets acne in adulthood.
What Causes Acne
To this day, research is still ongoing to determine and validate what causes acne, a common dreaded skin disease. Acne is indeed a complicated skin problem and yet to be fully understood.
What Causes Acne – Hormonal Changes
Research and clinical studies do show the connection between our hormones and acne. Like during puberty, boys and girls tend to have an increase in their hormone production and this produces high levels of androgens which are male sex hormones. Testosterone then makes the body produce more sebum. As explained up there, excess sebum eventually leads to acne.
In relation to hormones too, some doctors believe hormonal changes in pregnant women may also be what causes acne to develop or may aggravate existing acne condition.
This may also be the case for women during their menstruation or what I call ‘signs of PMS’. I tend to get a couple of pimples around a week before my period, but these gradually go away once my period starts.
What Causes Acne – Acne Causing Bacteria
Sebum or our skin’s own natural oil is good to keep our skin moisturized – just nicely moisturized and not making it too oily. So when our skin gets excess sebum, this excess sebum clogs our hair follicles (pores). Then skin gets whiteheads and blackheads – comedomes.
Now when sebum continues to build up and blocking the pores, under the skin, the sides or the walls of the follicles break out. Then sebum leaks out into surrounding area and causes pustules to form. By this time, non-inflamed acne becomes larger, red, swollen, lumpy inflamed and painful acne called nodules and cysts.
Inside healthy hair follicles there are bacteria called Propionibacterium Acnes or better known as P.Acnes or acne causing bacteria. These bacteria thrive and grow in a ‘sebum environment.’ When there are too much of these bacteria in our hair follicles, the enzyme they release damages the follicle walls, eventually leading to inflammation and eventually acne outbreak on the surface of the skin. This also may very likely be what causes acne.
For those who have sensitive skin especially, their skin will react ‘seriously’ to this inflammation and get an acne outbreak on their skin. The acne starts with a pimple that eventually become big, red, sore and tender lumps.
For those whom their skins are not sensitive or ‘prone to acne’ will heal from one or two pimples. So doctors believe too that maybe acne is not really affected by ‘wacky hormones’ but it is just a matter of how our skin reacts to excess sebum production and acne causing bacteria (which already occurs in healthy hair follicles).
On the flip side, research also shows sebum together with dead skin cells can be ‘sloughed away’. And when there is enough sebum inside the follicles, just enough will ‘spread over’ the surface of your skin to just nicely moisturize our skin. In this way, our skin looks healthy and nice.
But in this same case, when too much sebum gets stuck in our hair follicles for some unknown reason, or gets stuck in the opening of our pores, we eventually get whiteheads and blackheads.
In a nutshell, more research is still ongoing to find what causes acne, really, as this is indeed a complicated skin condition.
What Makes Acne Worse
According to research, some things or factors although are not directly what causes acne to breakout, they may make an existing acne condition get worse.
When we squeeze our pimples, the pus that comes out can cause the area around the pimple to be infected as well. And if we do this without thoroughly cleaning our hands, this will make the pimple worse. The worst of this would be getting scarred.
May I share this – Usually, I get a couple of pimples like a week before my period. These are small ones but sometimes, there is pus in it. I will thoroughly clean my hands and squeeze out the pus. I do this very carefully. This is so that I squeeze out just the pus and not until my pimple bleeds. Then I immediately wash off with water and gently dab dry with a clean face towel. I find that this way, my pimple heals quicker than when I left the pus in it. But I need to be really careful – like it is an art of squeezing a pimple.
Anxiety, Depression and Stress
All these ‘feeling down and out’ emotions can really affect our cortisol and adrenaline levels (hormones) which can make acne get worse. Anyway, in extreme cases of stress and depression, our overall health can be affected terribly causing us to even fall sick, not eat properly, not eat at all, deprived of quality rest and sleep and much more. In this case, it is natural that our whole mental and physical health or state is affected which not only causes any skin condition to get worse, but even our hair will shed more.
Although stress (especially extreme stress) is not what causes acne, stress can make acne worse. So try your best to be positive, stay positive and take time to chill out every day.
Facial and Make Up Products
When we have acne and going through acne treatment, it is best to steer away from using skin care, facial or make up stuff that are not ‘skin friendly’ or oil based. We need to be more aware because sometimes even if the product labels say ‘Natural’ or ‘All Natural’ there may still be scent, fragrance, perfume or coloring that may irritate our sore skin.
And if you have to use, choose oil-free products. And avoid using too much lotions or moisturizers. Take note of the reaction on your skin and care for it properly.
Greasy and Oily Hair
Do choose the right hair products that preferably will not be too greasy or oily because this can affect or make your skin oily as well. So take note of how your skin feels or reacts when using a kind or brand of product (same for skin or facial products).
Then as far as possible, keep your hair clean because ‘dirty hair’ that touches your face (acne) although is not what causes acne, ‘dirty hair’ can make your acne worse or irritate it.
This factor differs from person to person. This would be more for maybe acne sufferers who are allergic or sensitive to certain foods or diet – they need to skip such foods so that their skin is not irritated or aggravated, which make acne worse.
Otherwise logically, when we eat healthily our overall health, hair and skin condition reflects positively. On the other hand, eating unhealthily reflects negatively on our overall health, hair and skin. Normally, it is best to eat healthily, but this applies even more if we have skin problem or any other health or even hair problem.
Diet may not directly be what causes acne, it can help it heal better and quicker or make acne worse. Do have a healthy and balanced diet.
Heat, Hot Places or Environment
I believe hot and humid weather can irritate our skin, more so acne skin. I remember when I had eczema I would stay ‘as cool as possible’. Meaning, wear loose and ‘cooling’ clothes, avoid hot places or spending too much time in the sun, avoid perspiring too much, take more showers or bath, and did or avoid stuff that made me feel hot because this irritates my skin and makes it itchy and red.
Rubbing or Cleaning Too Hard or Too Much
This is one more thing that if done to the extreme, will make acne worse.
Please clean your face gently and not keep rubbing or rubbing it hard with your hands or a face towel or something. Be gentle when cleaning your acne skin or you may ‘hurt it’ and make it worse. Because anyway, dirt on our skin is not what causes acne.
What causes acne is or happens inside us. So there is no need to keep our skin ‘squeaky clean’. Tender loving care works great.