If you’ve ever awoken to pimples or bemoaned blackheads, you’re in good company. Research suggests that approximately 80% of people between ages 11 and 30 have experienced acne. These breakouts may range from a single spot to blemishes that cover large areas of the face, neck, chest, and back, and their causes can vary widely from person to person. Fortunately, a dermatologist can identify the cause of your acne and help you achieve clear, healthy skin. Here, Dermatology Associates of Central New York takes a closer look at just a few of the reasons you might be developing acne.
1. Excessive Oil Production
Our skin is covered in pores, or small openings. Pores allow sweat to escape and also occur over sebaceous glands, which produce oil. When oil, dead skin cells, and dirt clog our pores, acne appears.
Individuals with oily skin may produce too much oil due to several factors, including:
- Family history of oily skin
- Stretched or enlarged pores
- Skin irritation due to cosmetics, lotions, and other topical products
- Excess use of oil control products and exfoliators
- UV damage from sun exposure
Oddly enough, failing to moisturize your skin can also increase oil production.
Our skin is home to a diverse flora. This includes mites, bacteria, and other tiny organisms that can’t be seen. While these organisms are usually harmless, overgrowth of bacteria can result in acne and irritation that is also related to oil production.
When Propionibacterium acnes become trapped inside pores, they mingle with sebum. Without oxygen, these substances form fatty acids that trigger inflammation in the skin cells and prevent our naturally occuring anti-inflammatory enzymes from taking over, resulting in blackheads and pimples.
3. Hormonal Changes
Our hormone levels fluctuate constantly and often without notice. When sex hormones, such as androgen, estrogen, and testosterone, become imbalanced, they often lead to cystic acne, which is found deep beneath the skin and may be painful to touch.
Common causes of hormonal acne include:
- Conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
While stress doesn’t directly cause acne, cortisol, the hormone it produces, can worsen existing outbreaks.
Just as some natural conditions affect our hormone levels, so can certain medications. These drugs are usually essential for those who take them and may be used to treat:
- Bipolar disorder
Using androgenic steroids can also result in acne, typically located on the back. These steroids have many other harmful effects and should be avoided.
Covering blemishes with makeup is tempting during a breakout. Unfortunately, doing so can make acne worse. Some cosmetics contain ingredients that clog the pores, while others include fragrances, colorants, and other components that irritate skin and cause inflammation.
To avoid acne due to cosmetics, look for noncomedogenic products and hypoallergenic formulations. Washing off makeup each night before bed can also help minimize breakouts.
What Doesn’t Cause Acne?
You’ve likely heard about causes of acne throughout your life, from family and friends to beauty magazines and estheticians. Much of this advice is well-meaning, but incorrect. Rest assured that none of the following directly cause acne for most people:
- Poor hygiene: Over-cleansing is more likely to trigger breakouts.
- Diet: Chocolate, greasy foods, and sugar do not cause acne.
- Close contact with others with acne: You can’t catch acne from anyone else’s skin.
Remember, a dermatologist is always your best source for information about acne. They can offer expert advice and tailor treatment to your unique skin.
Learn More about Acne and Its Causes
If your acne is persistent or painful, contact Dermatology Associates of Central New York today. When you schedule an appointment at our Fayetteville, NY practice, Dr. Amin Fazeli, M.D. Ph.D., FAAD, FACMS or another experienced dermatologist will assess the cause of your acne and help you find a treatment that works.