So just what causes acne? This is a question that anyone who has ever been besieged with acne has inarguably asked himself or herself at one point or another. In fact, this question is such a good question that up to now, no one can really agree on just one, straightforward factor that is single-handedly responsible for the cause of acne. Some sources, such as the Acne.org website, even come right out and claim that the cause of acne is not known at all. However, the real answer is more nuanced and more complicated than that simple claim, as the causes of acne are actually highly multi-faceted and dependent on a whole bunch of variables as well as factors. Read on to find out more on all of the potential causes of acne!
What Causes Acne – The Basics
In a nutshell, the formation/cause of acne comes down to the consequences of blockages in one’s follicles. Essentially, it is when the sebaceous (oil) glands that are connected to one’s hair follicles become stimulated and provoked during the time of puberty. When they are stimulated during the time of puberty, what usually ends up happening is that they are provoked by way of raised levels of male hormones (though females can usually get acne, too!). Sebum (the oil) is a substance that is all-natural; it both protects as well as lubricates one’s skin.
What is associated with a raised level of oil production is a marked difference in how one’s skin cells start to mature, thus subjecting them to a predisposition to begin clogging one’s follicular pores as well as follicular openings. What then ends up happening is that the hair follicle that gets clogged eventually gets bigger, which generates the production of a noticeable bump on the skin (a pimple, in other words). Now, as said follicle continues to get bigger and bigger, there is a risk that the wall may well end up rupturing, thereby permitting irritating substances as well as the usual bacteria of the skin access into one’s skin’s deeper layers. At the end of this multi-faceted process, inflammation will normally ensue.
As the inflammation begins to get worse, what will happen is one of three things. First, if the inflammation is still relatively close to the surface of one’s skin, it is going to cause a pustule to appear. Second, if the inflammation is a little bit deeper, what occurs is the formation of a papule, which is what you know better as a plain, old pimple. Finally, if said inflammation is even deeper than the level at which a pimple is formed, it becomes a cyst. Interestingly, if the oil from any of this inflammation actually gets through to the surface of one’s skin, it is going to become what is known as a whitehead. In a situation where said oil gathers melanin pigment or gets oxidized, the oil is going to change from white to black, which has the effect of then producing a blackhead, as opposed to the aforementioned whitehead. It follows then that blackheads are actually not dirt and, thus, are not a reflection on the hygiene habits of a person who has blackheads.
However, there are some things that are known to be contributing factors to what causes acne. Let us take a look at some of them.
What Causes Acne – Contributing Factors
Hormonal activity is one of the most widely known contributing factors of acne. Examples of hormonal activity are puberty as well as menstrual cycles. While a male is undergoing puberty, a heightened level of the male sex hormone by the name of androgens is produced, which makes one’s follicle glands grow bigger and therefore make more sebum. In fact, it is interesting to note that the abuse of anabolic steroids might actually have much of the same effect!
Believe it or not, genetics actually is another of the big contributing factors with regard to what causes acne. It is a known fact that the tendency for the development of acne actually runs in some families. For instance, school-aged boys who have to suffer acne frequently also have members of their own family who are suffering from acne. A family history of acne is frequently associated with a prior occurrence of acne and also a heightened quantity of retention acne lesions.
In addition to both hormonal activity as well as genetics, psychological reasons can be properly blamed as the reason behind what causes acne. There is a link between stress and the onset of acne, thus making stress one of the contributing factors of acne. It, though, also has to be pointed out that there is debate on this issue, as stress being one of the contributing factors to the development of acne is not recognized with unanimity. Still, it is through research studies that we know that there is in fact an increase in the intensity of acne levels that is connected to the increase in a person’s stress levels. As a matter of fact, the National Institutes of Health state that stress can well be a factor that can contribute to a flare-up of acne.
A lot of people think that eating certain types of foods can cause acne, or, at least, play a big part in the cause of acne. These people are right in that a diet that features a high glycemic load has been connected with acne that only gets worse and does not get any better at all. Basically, a diet that features a high glycemic load is one whose carbohydrate count is quite high. Furthermore, there are also connections between the intensity and the rate of one’s acne and the consumption of how much milk one takes. It is of interest to also point out that some common assumptions with regard to the formation of acne and certain foods are a complete myth. For instance, the research out there does not support the unfortunate, conventional wisdom that foods like chocolate and salt contribute to the development of one’s acne. Still, it has to be pointed out that foods such as chocolate and salt frequently come with a greater glycemic load.
Then, there are also factors that are sort of tricky in that they sometimes can be contributing factors in some people. For example, something as basic as pressure can be a contributing factor in the development of acne. Pressure comes in the form of pressure from chin straps, pressure from helmets and even pressure from collars. Also, depending on what job you have, your acne might be aggravated. For instance, exposure to things such as industrial products such as cutting oil can aggravate one’s acne.
As is plain to see, the reasons behind the cause of acne are not that clear. The reason for this is because there are a lot of possible causes that could be behind the development of acne. Thus, it is quite proper to say that there is no one, single cause behind this skin condition. So, just what causes acne, after all? A whole bunch of varying factors can cause acne, and the reality differs from person to person. If dietary reasons are behind what causes acne for someone, then, perhaps, reasons involving stress are to blame in another person’s acne outbreak.