Why do I get Acne?


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Acne is the result of glands in the skin producing too much natural oil known as sebum which clogs the pores, creating blackheads, whiteheads and ‘spots’. Exactly what causes this sebum to be produced at so a high rate is not completely understood. The causes of acne clearly vary from person-to-person. Hormonal levels are central to the production of excess sebum and therefore the appearance of acne but hormones are subtle and can be affected by many factors some of which are listed below.

Acne and Hormones

Hormones have a lot of control over the health of your skin. Androgen, a hormone that is naturally present in both men and women, dramatically increases its production during puberty, which can cause higher-than-usual amounts of sebum to be produced. Sebum is a natural oil made in the skin that is thought to keep it moisturised and clear of dead skin cells. When too much sebum is produced it clogs the pores, ultimately causing acne. For this reason around 80% of teenagers suffer from acne.

However hormonal levels can also cause acne in adults. For example, far from glowing, the extreme hormonal changes that women experience during pregnancy often cause acne. Equally a large number of women going through the menopause experience a re-emergence of acne.

Acne and Stress

Stress is one factor thought to trigger acne. Instead of cursing your luck when a ill-timed pimple appears right before in important event it might be wise to take a few deep breaths instead. The reason stress and acne are linked is because stress has been shown to stimulate the production of the acne-causing hormone, androgen. When your androgen levels rise, so do your chances of a breakout.

There is another possible reason why stress has such an impact on your skin. Some doctors think that there is a link between your stress levels and the time your body takes to heal itself. Therefore, the more stressed you are, the less effectively and quickly your acne will clear up.

Acne and Diet

Many aspects of your diet also affect your hormone levels. Eating a healthy, balanced diet could in some cases reduce your chances of developing severe acne or improve your skin condition. For example, non-organic meat often contains added hormones that can alter your own hormonal levels. Avoiding large quantities of this kind of meat could help control your acne.

Often, however, it is not a case of what you do eat, but what you don’t. Many modern diets lack fats, vitamins and minerals, which are important to maintaining a healthy complexion. Some of these include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Chromium
  • Essential Fatty Acids

Acne and Medication

There are a number of medications that you may have been prescribed to treat an unrelated condition which cause your hormones to produce a heightened amount of androgens or which cause your sebaceous glands to overact. The large amount of sebum produced can then cause acne. Stopping the course of medication in these cases will generally cause the acne to clear up but often simply stopping your treatment is not possible and certainly not to be done without consulting your doctor. Some of the most common acne-causing medications include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Lithium
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
  • Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids
  • Barbiturates

Acne and Smoking

Recently there have been many reports that smoking can cause or exasperate acne, especially in women. In fact, one study found that as a female smoker you are 32% more likely to have acne than a non-smoker. Cigarettes contain thousands of harmful chemicals and these can affect your hormones and overall health, resulting in acne.


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