What causes acne

what-causes-acne
Severe for of acne on both the face and chest

What exactly causes acne?

This is a question on many of my client’s lips.

Sadly there is not a straight forward answer, simply because so much is going on within the skin.

But before we go any further, we feel we need to set the record straight.

That level of oiliness you see on your skin is hereditary.

That’s right, the number, size, and productivity of your sebaceous gland that produces sebum are determined by your genetics.

And whilst it’s true that hormones play a role in your oiliness levels, even your hormonal activity is influenced by hereditary factors.

Sebaceous gland anatomy

Sebaceous glands are found all over your body close to the skin’s surface, a membrane surrounds all of these glands which is where immature cells called sebocytes are formed.

Now, these cells are pretty active, and as they detach from the membrane and journey to the center of the sebaceous gland, they collect oil until they are almost completely converted into lipids. When the cells get full they disintegrate and all those lovely lipids are expressed directly into the sebaceous gland and up through the follicle coating the skin and hair,

All of this mixes with other surface lipids, to create a wonderful defense system on the surface known as the acid mantle.

What causes acne?

Well as if that’s not enough, oily, acne-prone skin types don’t seem to shed cells from the skin surface, or from the lining of the follicle in the same way as normal skin does.

In a normal follicle old cells are brought to the surface and shed via the hair shaft, the oil gland helps to orchestrate this turnover, by keeping the skin soft and well lubricated so that the old cells can move up and shed off.

Instead, with an acne vulgaris, a pile-up of dead skin cells builds up in the follicle – referred to in the industry as hyperkeratosis, which literally means cellular build-up. When the cells build up in the follicle like this they begin to thicken the lining causing congestion, which results in the formation of blocked pores, blackheads, and other impactions.

Sebum coats the build-up of cells in the follicle walls which also oxidizes and hardens into a mass of oil and dead cells, they then become sticky clogging the follicle. causing a vicious cycle in the skin:

  • the more oil that produced the more blocked the follicle becomes
  • the more bacteria thrive in this environment
  • this causes inflammation, pimples papules and pustules to occur
  • if the pimples are squeezed this sets off a whole cycle of infection, which is due to bacterial activity within the skin

Obviously the only way to nip this cycle in the bud is to treat it effectively which you can read all about here.

When treating acne, a dermatologist will grade your acne, so that you can put a correct treatment plan together that will get to the route of the problem both topically and systemically.

4 thoughts on “What causes acne

  1. steve says:

    Gee not a word about the role our good natural flora plays in controlling acne? They are our first line of defense. (watch a video on TED about this: How bacteria Talk by Bonnie Bassler)
    I believe the lack of good natural flora(good bacteria) is the real reason so many adults suffer from acne today. If you go back 50 years, acne was mostly over by 18. Today perhaps hundreds of millions worldwide suffer. I believe damage by current skin care products to our natural flora is the real reason so many have acne. Indeed it all is complex, but much more so when you understand our bodies are also home to trillions of good bacteria.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Steve

      Got to be honest I have not considered this holistic view point but something that has piqued my interest for sure. Thank you so much for this invaluable insight and please if you find more information on this topic I would love to hear from you, even if you would like to put together an article, please do drop us a line.

  2. Char says:

    Nice to see this article. I am a longtime acne sufferer, and tried lots of medicines and products with variable success. My acne definitely worsens during periods and gets better after them with little to no acne on the days after my period, gradually increasing, particularly along the jawline as I get closer to my next period….

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi Char
      Really glad you connected with this article, it certainly sounds like hormonal acne, a good skin esthetician or dermatologist will be able to recommend you the right home care regime for your skin. With hormonal acne such as this, try to do as much spot treatment as you can on outbreaks, as you don’t want to upset the acid mantle on other ares of the skin with strong, astringent products.
      Samantha

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