What Causes Acne

Pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and even cysts can have a tremendous impact on our self-esteem and confidence. They are more common among teenagers and young adults. However, they can even persist beyond the age of 25, even in our 30s and 40s (Understanding Acne Basics). 

Acne is a common skin condition, and as stated by the American Academy of Dermatology, it affects 50 million Americans per year (Skin conditions by the numbers). Due to this, it is not uncommon to hear or see people spending a lot of money in an attempt to treat the condition.

There are effective treatments that are available. Methods of treatment are, however; dictated and limited by the severity of the acne condition. The most frequently asked questions on skincare and health is, what causes acne and how one treat or get rid of it. 

Before we address the above-highlighted questions, it is essential that we first understand what acne is. 

What is Acne?

Acne is generally an inflammatory skin condition (Nordqvist, 2017). It is often caused or occurs when dead skin cells and oil produced by the sebaceous glands plug the openings of the hair follicles. In other words, acne is caused by clogged pores (Acne). 

As previously mentioned, acne can be in the form of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, cysts and even nodules. The type of acne that occurs is often dictated by the size of the pores of the hair follicles. For instance, if the clogged pores are large, then it is likely to develop into a blackhead. If the clogged pore is small, however; it is likely to develop into a white head (Understanding Acne Basics). 

Acne does not only affect the face but the neck, chest, shoulders and upper back and upper arms. In most cases, when acne disappears, they leave behind scars that tend to fade over time (Acne). 

What Causes Acne?

Now, what causes acne? The exact cause of acne is not fully developed or understood. However, there are certain factors that can aggravate and increase the condition. Below are some of those factors. 


As previously mentioned, acne is caused by the pores of hair follicles getting clogged by the build up sebum and dead skin cells. The clogging up of these two substances makes it a breeding ground for bacteria. As the bacteria grows and feeds on the clogged up pores, the development of acne is accelerated (Understanding Acne Basics).

Sometimes the growth of bacteria in clogged pores also lead to inflammatory acne, cysts or nodules which are usually larger in size. This is where the importance of practising proper skin care hygiene comes in. Do not over-scrub your skin or use harsh products in your skin care routine, as this may aggravate your condition.


One of the main causes of acne is linked back to hormones. As teenagers hit puberty, hormone production begins, which offsets acne development. The hormone responsible for offsetting the occurrence of acne is known as androgens (Understanding Acne Basics). 

Androgens are high in testosterone, which stimulates oil production by the sebaceous glands. The oil produced by the sebaceous glands is known as sebum. The more of it that is produced, the more likely it is to clog the pores of the hair follicles and encourage acne development (Understanding Acne Basics).


Diet has been linked to the development of acne in certain individuals. Foods such as bread or even milk can worsen or aggravate acne (Acne). Hence, cutting out milk and even reducing the intake of carbohydrate-rich foods can help reduce its occurrence. Eating foods such as fruits and vegetables have been known to impact the health of the skin.


Stress is also another factor that worsens acne development. The best way of dealing with stress is by exercising more (Acne).


Acne. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2019, from Mayo Clinic:

Nordqvist, C. (2017, November 27). What you need to know about acne. Retrieved May 28, 2019, from Medical News Today:

Skin conditions by the numbers. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2019, from American Academy of Dermatology:

Understanding Acne Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2019, from WebMD:

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