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12 Causes of pimples:Find Out Why You Break Out

Updated on February 13, 2016

Acne a skin disease― having several varieties of severity, blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and cysts―that afflicts at least 80% of the population at some point in their life. Acne is not life threatening but it causes embarrassment, anxiety and self-esteem issues. At the age, which we most prioritize our physical appearance acne start to develop. Not everyone is affected by acne in the same way. Some people may breakout occasionally while other may suffer from nodules and cysts covering their face,chest or arms.

Pimple or acne formation is a simple process involving pores in the skin that contain oil gland and a hair follicle. When there’s an excessive growth of skin cells and oil production is also more active than normal, pores clog. This is an ideal condition for acne causing strains of bacteria especially Propionibacterium acnes which are usually present as harmless microbes on skin .But when the suitable environment ― like clogged pores with sebum― is created, they thrive. This leads to the pore becoming infected ,Immune cells go to the infected site and fight the bacteria, leading to pus formation and redness. The pus rises to the top and you then have a red bump with a yellow cap.This is a mature pimple.

12 Causes of Pimples Formation

Acne is a complex diseases process.There are many reasons that might result in pimple formation. Everyone’s body is different and responds in its own unique way to genetic and environmental factors.Dermatologists and Research Studies suggest following factors to be the cause of pimples.

use of Heavy,greasy make-up may cause pimples.
use of Heavy,greasy make-up may cause pimples. | Source

Use of heavy greasy makeup

Use of greasy,solid make up products (stick,cream foundation,concealor,pan cake ,cream to powder compact foundation) forms a thick layer over skin to provide a good coverage. But this thick layer containing greasy materials may block the tiny pores in the skin, as oily substances enter into them . This creates a breeding ground for the acne-causing strains of bacteria who feed off the sebum and proliferate. The body's attempt to fight the resulting bacterial infection leads to inflammation, which then turns into pimples or sometimes cysts.

If you have acne prone skin,it's better to use oil free makeup products.

Lack of proper Water intake

According to UCLA student nutrition awareness campaign ,proper water intake affects the functioning of different body parts including oil production from skin cells.So if you don’t drink enough amount of water(at least 2 liters) it may lead to your skin being unable to regulate the production of oil and thus breaking out in acne and pimples.

Water also derives away toxins from body,that helps skin stay in good health.

Lack of proper sleep combined with stress

Stress is any strain on the body it could be emotional strain(like anxiety about a big event,relationship problems or heavy workload)or physical strain(lack of sleep,hectic lifestyle leading to physical tension).How stress contributes to breakouts? If a person’s skin contains some clogged pores(clogged pores are invisible and of not much problem) inflammatory substances released by stress cause the walls of the pores break,redness and puss follow and the pimples form on face.

products in skin lightening creams may cause acne flare-ups.
products in skin lightening creams may cause acne flare-ups. | Source

Causes of pimples or acne

Skin lightening products

Skin lightening products are VERY harmful for skin. They change the chemistry of skin. These products are a dangerous cocktail of hydroquionone, mercury and corticosteroids.

  • Hydroquinone lightens skin by reducing melanin production. Melanin is a protective pigment that skin manufactures to protect itself from sun’s ultraviolet rays. Thus hydroquinone leaves skin vulnerable to sun damage and cancer.
  • With topical corticosteroid there’s an increased risk of skin infection, sores, boils and acne flare up.
  • Mercury accumulates in body causing a host of serious life threatening health problems.

Acne due to skin lightening products is usually prevalent in south Asian people desiring lighter skin.

Sun damage

Sun exposure of 10-20 minutes per day for lighter skin and 20-30 minutes per day for darker skin may actually be good for pimples,but sun should be avoided.Because overexposure to sun is damaging to skin.When skin react to that damage,it causes irritation that might lead to pimples in the following weeks.

So,don't forget to wear sunblock 30 minutes before going outdoors.

Androgen hormones

The important role of androgens (any of a group of hormones that primarily influence the growth and development of the male reproductive system) in acne has been substantiated by both clinical and research evidence. Studies have shown that individuals having higher levels of main androgen hormone testosterone have more pimples and acne. As the level of testosterone hormone increases in body it stimulates oil production glands in the skin.However,Some peoples Oil glands are not so sensitive to androgen level so they may have high androgen level in body but no excess oil and thus no acne,So pimples may or may not be caused by androgen hormones but they are always caused by an excess of oil.

If you suffer from acne and you want to find out whether it’s hormonal or not, have your androgen levels checked.

some Studies link sugary or high glycemic index foods with pimple formation.
some Studies link sugary or high glycemic index foods with pimple formation. | Source

Lack of proper nutrition

If you often eat junk food then it might be the cause of your pimples .Junk food causes physical or intestinal stress to the body,as our bodies have been designed for simple organic food.Intestinal stress often leads to pimples or breakouts.Besides a healthy nutrition helps skin rejuvenate itself, shed dead cells and regulate oil production so eating well is important if you are having skin problems.

Actually there are several studies that support the link between nutrition and acne. Some of the studies suggest that nutrition affects hormone level in blood which in turn affect skin,they suggest that food causing least elevation of blood glucose levels and high in omega 3 fatty acids are good for acne patients.

So What you should eat? Fruits(sugar is tightly bound with fiber and released slowly in blood,fruits are also high in vitamins and minerals),vegeteables,lean meat especially fish.

Sugary drinks,processed meat and bread,high calorie fast food should be avoided.They make you put on pounds and pimples.

Studies show that acne is more prevalent in western societies (greater than 85 % population suffers from acne at some point in their life) than some other strikingly non westernized societies (prevalence less than 3 %). It could be that western societies eat more junk food causing a sudden rise in blood sugar levels, thus exposing themselves to a host of skin problems.

Birth control pills

As mentioned before, pimple formation is affected by hormones level in blood, adding more hormones in the form of birth control pills increases the chances of acne break outs. Some of the birth control pills contain only progestin, this hormone acts very much like male androgen hormone testosteron,thus stimulating the skin to produce more oil eventually leading to acne breakouts. Progesterone also minimizes the pores, giving your skin a smooth look. The combination of tightened pores and extra oil equals pimples.

Women with oily skin are especially at risk, because their skin environment is already ripe for bacterial infection , adding more oil to skin is very likely to lead to pimples. Overweight women are also at risk because they too already have higher levels of testosterone.So,Progestin only birth control pills should be avoided by these type of women.

Combination pills contain both progestin and estrogen or estradiol.Cutting estrogen from the pill as in progestin only pills increases the risk for acne.

If you oily or acne prone skin you should try combination pills as there’s less chance of pimple breakouts.

  • Yasmin (or Ocella or Zarah)

progestin monophasic, 30ug of estradiol

  • Yaz (or BeYaz)

progestin monophasic, 20ug of estradiol

  • 3. Ortho Cyclen (or MonoNessa or Sprintec)

progestin, monophasic, 35ug of estradiol

  • 4. Diane-35 (or Dianette)

progestin, monophasic, 35ug of estradiol

There are many different brand names for the mini-pill. A mini-pill has only progestin and no estrogen . Thus Mini-pills are a bad choice for those who have pimples, as they frequently cause acne in people who never had it before.

Alcohol consumption may lead to dehydration
Alcohol consumption may lead to dehydration | Source

Use of Alcohol and other diuretics

Consuming a lot of alcohol and other diuretics(drinks that make you urinate more)lead to dehydration. Skin is the largest body organ, just like other organs of body it needs enough water for proper functioning.when the body is dehydrated , skin becomes,sallow,cracked and dry.To rectify this damage the skin may produce more oil leading to acne and pimple flare-ups.

So limit your intake of alcohol,it’s not good for skin and liver. if you must drink, drink plenty of water after that to re-hydrate the body.

Not removing make up properly:

Removing makeup properly is very important for having clear skin. If you are lazy with removing makeup and washing your face before going to bed, then this can have bad consequences for your skin. Waterproof makeup and sunscreen are especially harder to remove, any residue left from these products on skin will clog pores and cause breakouts. For the proper removal of waterproof makeup they should be removed with an oily cleanser or cream. Waterproof makeup will dissolve in something oily. After removing these products with an oily cleanser or cream follow with soap and good scrubbing, so that all makeup is properly removed.

Use of drugs

Though there are not direct studies that show the link between drugs and acne. But there are some studies that show that drug interfere with hormonal level. Disturbance in hormonal level may lead to break outs. As mentioned before, stress leads to acne break outs.

Acne can appear in mild or severe forms, depending on the dosage and how your body reacts to the drug.

Genetic factors

You might start to develop pimples just because you have a family history of acne.Several scientific research studies actually support the link between acne and genes.But it should not discourage you,dietary factors and hygiene are also important.If you properly wash your exposed areas of skin before sleeping and eat well,you decease your chances of pimple breakouts.It’s like just weight management.You don’t have to be fat just because your parents are overweight.weight can be controlled with exercise and proper diet,the same is with pimples.


1.Zouboulis CC and Bohm M. "Neuroendocrine regulation of sebocytes – a pathogenetic link between stress and acne." Experimental Dermatology. 2004; 13(Suppl 4): 31-5.

2.Lee WJ, et al. "Influence of substance-P on cultured sebocytes." Archives of Dermatological Research. 2008; 300(6): 311-317

3.Acne vulgaris: a disease of Western civilization.Cordain L1, Lindeberg S, Hurtado M, Hill K, Eaton SB, Brand-Miller J.

4.Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century.

Cordain L1, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O'Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J.

5.Acne and Rosacea,Epidimology,diagnosis and treatment by David J.Goldberg,Alexander L. Berlin

6.Clear Skin a step by step programme to stop pimples.blackheads,acne By Kenneth L. Flendermeyer,M.D

Do you suffer from acne or pimples.What do you think causes it or worsens your symptoms

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