If you’ve ever suffered from an acne breakout, you’ve probably asked “Why me?” You might have asked friends for advice, but sometimes following their advice just matters worse, the implication being that you’ve done something wrong to make your skin freak out – and that’s not what you want to hear when you’re feeling like putting a bag over your head and hiding from the world!
The truth is there are several causes behind acne, and it could be any one of them – or a combination – that’s the culprit. Below we break down the root causes of acne to help you better understand what might be going on with your skin.
What Causes Acne?
Believe it or not, as long as people have been struggling with acne, the exact cause of it remains unknown. Researchers have narrowed it down to a group of several related factors:
- Hormonal Activity. Androgens (male hormones) increase in both boys and girls at the onset of puberty, causing the body’s sebaceous (oil) glands to enlarge and make more oil. Oil production can also increase during pregnancy, or with starting or stopping oral contraceptives.
- Medications. Medicines that contain or stimulate androgens, corticosteroids, or lithium can play a role in the development of acne.
- Heredity. Researchers believe good old genetics could have a hand in whether or not a person gets acne, meaning that if your parents suffered from breakouts, you are at greater risk of suffering from them, too.
- Stress. There is a link between adult acne and stress, and research has proven this link. (In fact, stress is considered one of the main culprits when it comes to acne in adults.) This happens because, when your body is stressed, the increase in stress hormones can throw off your equilibrium and you can experience all sorts of changes, such as weight gain, increased blood pressure, and worsened acne. Experts are divided on whether stress creates acne or just worsens it, but it does increase the amount of oil your skin secretes, which can clog pores and cause breakouts.
In addition to the actual causes of acne, there are other factors that can make acne worse if you are already prone to breakouts:
- Hormonal changes that occur in girls or women two to seven days before the beginning of their menstrual cycle. Breakouts during your period are common!
- Sensitizing reactions to makeup, irritating skin-care ingredients, specific foods (rarely), allergies, or medicines.
- Inflammation, including inflammation caused by squeezing or picking at blemishes.
It’s also important to note what does not cause acne, regardless of all the anecdotes that are out there. Eating chocolate and greasy foods are not factors in developing acne. If they were, everyone who ate them would get acne, and that’s simply not the case! Acne, and its typical partner-in-crime blackheads, are not the result of dirty skin. The black dots that are the tip of blackheads are not dirt showing under the skin’s surface; they’re dead skin cells and oil hat have oxidized, making them appear dark.
Who Gets Acne?
You might be wondering: Who gets acne? Isn’t this a problem only for teenagers? Acne is actually the most common of all skin disorders, and people of all races and ages can suffer from breakouts. It’s estimated that 80% of all people between the ages of 11 and 30 will have acne breakouts at some point in their lives, and it is not uncommon for some people to have breakouts well into their 40s and 50s, which can only add to the frustration because it’s during this time that more pronounced signs of aging begin to show up (hello, wrinkles).
The Bottom Line
While there is not a lot you can do to prevent some of the root causes of acne, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to get acne under control. I invite you to check out the next articles that tackle every aspect of acne, including how to prevent it, myths that could be making your skin worse, prescrition treatments and much more. Armed with this information, you’ll be ready to banish breakouts and welcome back clear skin, whether you’re a teenager or well into adulthood!