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What Causes Acne?

Updated on March 6, 2012
What causes acne?
What causes acne?

Although we can easily describe how acne forms, it is far harder to give a definite answer on what triggers it. While a lot of factors have been proven to have an impact when it comes to the occurrence of breakouts in acne sufferers, not everything is known about what causes acne from a medical perspective. Every case is different, and when it comes to analyzing the potential causes of your own acne it is important to know which environmental and biological elements have a relationship with acne as a condition.

Hereditary Predisposition

Just about everything about your skin is the result of genetics. The color of your skin, how prone it is to sun damage, whether it tends towards greasiness or dryness, and how likely it is to display skin conditions like acne are all impacted by your family history. If either of your parents have acne, or had it during puberty, the chances of you having it too are much higher. Of course, because our genetic make-up is a mixture of the dominant genes in both our paternal and maternal families, there is no guarantee that your skin will behave exactly the same as your mother's or father's, but in many cases acne is passed down through the family. This isn't all bad news ā€“ other members of your family who have suffered from acne before you may have found a system of treatment that works for them, which could potentially work for you too. This may help take some of the trial and error out of finding a regime that works for you or identifying triggers.

Hormonal Changes

There is no doubt that hormone changes affect the production of sebum in the skin, which can cause acne to form. This is the reason why acne is traditionally thought of as affecting teenagers, whose hormonal balances become altered to extreme levels during puberty, though it can affect anybody at any age. The relationship between hormones and acne treatment is also the reason why there are more female than male adult acne sufferers ā€“ in men, hormone levels stay fairly constant, however in women they fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and change dramatically during pregnancy and the menopause ā€“ sometimes causing acne in women who have never experienced it before.


Although stress seems to be cited as a cause for just about every skin care condition going, in the case of acne there is a well established link. This is again, due to hormones. The adrenal glands release increased levels of hormones such as cortisol during times of worry, anxiety or pressure, so when somebody has a stressful lifestyle the hormonal impact can lead to acne. This generally happens to people who have experienced acne at other times, who will often find that their condition worsens or recurs when they face stress.

Other Factors

Other things, such as some medical treatment or the use of certain types of prescription or street drugs (especially amphetamines or steroid based drugs) can also cause flare-ups in acne sufferers or changes in the severity and location of acne.

As a rule, the healthier you are, the better your skin will look, so if you are prone to acne this is something to bear in mind alongside any other treatment.


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      causes for acne 5 years ago

      Great article Using the recommended products makes the dryness worse causing my face to be extremely itchy and uncomfortable

    • Sadie14 profile image

      Brittany B 5 years ago from U.S.

      Very interesting and informative good job!

    • BestMensSkinCare profile image

      BestMensSkinCare 5 years ago from California

      Very nice info here. Best acne page so far!