Causes of Acne

There are many factors involved that can cause acne. Although medical science has still not been able to identify the exact cause of acne, this skin condition is believed to be due to interrelated factors that lead to it.  The number of people suffering from acne in the United States number almost 18 million with the largest demographic group suffering from condition at the ages of 12 to 25 years old.  This age group bracket comprises about 85% of the individuals who have acne. By gender about half of adult women suffer from acne and only about 25% of adult men have this condition.

The factors that cause acne can be internal or external.  The external factors that contribute to acne include:

Skin care products and makeup – Acne causing skin-care products are termed comedogenic (acne aggravators) or acnegenic (acne causing) skin-care products. They cause your skin to break out and irritate it as well. These products tend to block the pores and trap the sebum inside the pores. If you want to prevent or at least minimize the rise of acne in your skin, choose non-acnegenic products or non-comedogenic, which, however, does not guarantee your skin will not also break out.

Occupation – Your work environment is a very big factor in causing your skin to develop problems.  The environment oftentimes is dirty and polluted and saturated with harmful toxic chemicals. They can include construction and manufacturing facilities where contact with polluting agents or strong chemicals is a part of the job. These polluting or chemical agents in turn come into contact with the skin.

Excessive sunlight – Surprisingly, too much exposure to the rays of the sun can cause the development of acne. The effect can be time retarded as the acne may eventually show up some months after exposure.

Climate – The follicles tend to swell up in humid climate. However, dry air can also give rise to the development of thick sebum residing in follicle cells. So, both highly humid and dry climate can potentially cause acne.

Picking and squeezing pimples – Your germ-laden hands and fingers can exacerbate your skin condition and can cause acne if you keep on touching your face or utilize your fingers to scratch or squeeze out your pimples.  When you scratch of pick your pimples you are actually pushing the germs in your fingers deeper into the skin or scatter the germs into wider areas of the skin.

Sweat – Bacteria are likely to get caught in your sweat.  If you rub your clothing that is soaked in your sweat on your skin, you are putting the bacteria directly in your skin pores which can cause bacteria.  Pressure of tight collars, backpacks or bike helmets cause them to rub into the skin transferring germs to your skin which can cause acne or exacerbate it if you already have it.

The internal factors of acne can include:

Bacteria – Almost all kinds of bacteria residing on the skin can cause acne. The bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes are the bacteria that primarily cause acne. The Propionibacterium acnes produce enzymes that melt the sebum in the skin. This process irritates the skin causing skin inflammation.

Sebum production – The more amount of sebum there is in the skin, the worse your acne can develop. You can find the largest concentrations of sebum in the upper arms, upper back, chest, neck and face.

Follicle growth – When the follicle grows abnormally, it can lead to acne. Too much growth follicle cells tend to form a plug; the plug gets bigger until it bursts and scatters bacteria all over the skin surface.

Hormones – Hormonal changes causing acne can include hormonal disorders, menopause, birth control pills, pregnancy, menstruation and stress.

Androgens – These are hormones coming from adrenal glands, glands that also produce oil glands (sebum).  Higher level of androgen means more sebum production and therefore more chance to develop acne.

Stress – Stress can enhance androgen levels which can result in more sebum in the skin.

Diet – Some dermatologists think that poor diet can cause a reaction that increases sebum production in the skin.

Steroids and prescription drugs – These can include barbiturates and lithium to mention just a couple of them that have been known to cause acne.

Genetics – If your parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts have had a history of acne, then there’s a 50/50 chance you will suffer from it as well and inherit their complexion. It has been verified that acne can be a genetic disorder although the specific gene(s) that cause this problem remains elusive.

Based on the list above, it is clear to see that there are many causes of acne some of which are interrelated and some which are independent. There is simply no separation of interlinking activities that lead to acne. Knowing what causes acne causes can help prevent breakouts or at least minimize them.

Steven Goldfarb is a licensed acupuncture doctor and the medical director of Goldfarb Chiropractic and Acupuncture Center in West Orange, NJ.

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