What Causes My Acne?

Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting 50 million Americans annually. It is characterized by the development of papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts on the face, chest, or back. The cause of acne is complex, but we wi break it down into two categories, internal and external factors. Both factors contribute to an inflammatory process that creates unwanted acne lesions on the skin. So, how do you determine what’s causing this frustrating skin condition? Let’s take a look.

Factors that Play a Key Role:

Internal factors:

  • Hormones. Our hormones fluctuate with different stages of life. During puberty, there’s an increase in growth hormones and sex hormones which influences oil (sebum) production. When sebum increases, it creates a more optimal environment for bacteria to grow (C. acnes) creating acne lesions. It is also common to see hormonal acne in post-adolescent women. This type of acne typically presents as painful breakouts along the jawline, chin, and/or cheeks due to an excessive amount of androgens (a type of hormone) in the body.
  • Inflammation. It is imperative to keep our skin clean and the skin barrier balanced. When this balance is interrupted by sebum, dirt, sweat, comedogenic products, and other disrupting agents, bacteria and/or dead skin cells can colonize in the pores leading to acne.
  • Genetics. Individuals with close family members with acne are at increased risk for the disorder, supporting a genetic component to the disease.

External factors:

  • Diet. Diet can play a role in acne development. Several studies have shown an association between acne and increased milk consumption, specifically low or non-fat milk. The data is limited to milk dairy products, not cheese and yogurt. Research also supports an association between diets rich in simple sugars (high glycemic load) can contribute to acne. Eating a whole food diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and seeds will not only benefit your health but also your skin!
  • Sweat. Sweating associated with exercise is great for your cardiovascular health, plus it’s a great mood boost! However, if sweat buildup stays on your skin it can create an ideal environment for bacterial growth, thus leading to unwanted acne!
  • Stress. Stress increases cortisol (primary stress hormone) levels in the body. Increased cortisol, increases sugars in the bloodstream. It also increases oil production in the skin promoting breakouts. Manage stress with restful sleep, a healthy consistent diet, and daily exercise (even just a 20-minute walk).

How Do I Know How to Treat My Acne?

If you need a temporary treatment, then you can use a Foundation for acne. For permanent results, you should find a dermatology provider who will meet with you to understand which factors are causing your acne. Your provider will create a customized regimen that works for you and your lifestyle.

About The Author

Natalie Gibson, MPAS, Board Certified Physician Assistant, graduated from The University of Texas Medical Branch where she earned her Masters in Physician Assistant Studies with Honors. Prior to obtaining her masters, Natalie attended The University of Texas at Austin where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences. She was inducted into many honor societies throughout her time at UT.

Natalie is currently seeing both medical and cosmetic patients at Sanova Dermatology.

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