Find Out All Causes of Acne -why do we suffer from Acne?
Acne is a universal problem. It is one of the most common skin problems all over the world. Acne breakouts are not restricted by gender or age, which means that males or females of any age can experience this problem and want to know the causes of acne.
Acne is also commonly referred to as pimple. Therefore, in this article, we will be using both terms acne and pimple interchangeably.
Since acne is common, so is the inquiry about the causes of acne. If you want to start an acne treatment, or have already started one, it is important to find out and deal with the underlying causes of acne and not just the superficial pimples alone. A successful acne treatment will start for you when you understand what pimples are, what the possible causes of acne could be, and how far your infection has gone.
What is Acne?
To understand the causes of acne, let’s first throw some light on what acne is. Acne, or more commonly known as a pimple, is a swelling on the skin. The main cause of acne is that oil gets trapped in skin pores and comes in contact with harmful bacteria, causing infection.
A hair follicle refers to the cells and tissue surrounding the root of the hair. Our skin also has pores from where oil (known as sebum) comes out. There are oil-secreting glands, called the sebaceous glands, under our skin which produce this oil to keep the skin moist and supple.
Sometimes, sebaceous glands produce excess oil or there are a lot of dead skin cells on the skin. Dead skin cells clog the skin pores and oil gets trapped in them, creating a warm and fluffy bed for bacteria. If bacteria come in contact with this, it causes damage to the skin and creates a pus pit, which is commonly known as acne or pimple.
Are there types of acne?
Acne can be inflammatory and non inflammatory. Non-inflammatory version includes Whiteheads and blackheads, which do not cause inflammation or pain or itching. On the other hand, pimples or cystic acne cause inflammation and itching, and are hence called inflammatory.
Papules, pustules, nodules, cystic acne are all types of inflammatory acne.
What is a blackhead?
While we are discussing the causes of Acne, let us throw some light on what a blackhead is. Blackheads are small and dark bumps on the skin mostly occurring on the face and neck. They also appear on the back, chest and shoulder where the number of hair follicles is more.
Difference between Whitehead and Blackhead
When oil and dead skin cells get deposited in the openings of hair follicle, they produce a swelling. If this swelling stays covered with skin, it’s generally not visible. This is called a whitehead.
On the other hand, once this swelling gets above the skin, the opening comes in contact with air and the surface darkens, producing a blackhead. The accumulated oil and dead skin cells gets oxidized in the air and turns dark. Contrary to Popular belief that blackheads are caused due to accumulated dirt, it actually occurs when the melanin (a pigment in the skin) gets oxidized upon coming in contact with air.
Are blackheads harmful?
Though blackhead is a symptom of acne, its nature is completely different from more acute pimples. A blackhead is non-inflammatory. Blackheads remain on the skin as black spots without causing any pain or irritation.
However, you should never squeeze, steam or scrub the blackheads. It can cause inflammation of the skin, which may lead to infection or leave behind acne scars.
How to remove blackheads
To get rid of blackheads, some good practices involve using scrubs, non-comedogenic products that prevent clogging of pores, or prescribed medications that are rich in vitamin A, such as tazarotene, adapalene. However, a doctor’s consultation is very important before you start a treatment for blackheads.
Causes of Acne
Nowadays, it is hard to say what may be the reasons for pimples in people without a proper analysis of the skin. There are a lot of myths around causes of acne – like not washing one’s face, not getting enough sunlight, eating chocolate etc. While taking some preventive steps may help in acne treatment, but they are not the underlying causes of acne.
Pimples are not merely an outward skin disease. The major causes of acne may be hormonal or genetic.
Genetic Causes of Acne
Acne is not a genetic disease. However, some hereditary traits have an impact on how a person’s skin reacts to bacteria, infection, acne scars, etc. It is also likely that if your family members have a history of acne, then that could be one of the major causes of acne breakouts on your skin.
- Due to genetic or hereditary factors, different people’s bodies react differently to situations. For example, excessively oily skin is one of the major contributors in causes of acne. Having oily skin is a hereditary trait and one should not get disheartened because of that.
- Apart from oily skin, how a person’s immune system reacts is also one of the major causes of acne. Some people only get blackheads when bacteria infect their skin, while some may get instant pimples and swelling, followed by inflammation.
- Not just immune system, but other factors like the condition of the digestive system, thyroid, liver, pancreas etc are also impacted by genetics. Sugar levels, which are controlled by insulin produced in the pancreas, have been shown to cause pimples in some cases. Therefore, genetics play a major role in how our body looks and responds to situations.
Hormonal Causes of Acne
We are all aware that during the time of puberty, teens experience greater pimple breakouts. This is because hormonal changes happen during puberty and there is increased secretion of the hormone called androgen (hormone present in men and women, but lesser in women). Androgen causes sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum (oil).
Since excessive secretion of oil leads to clogging of skin pores, which is the most primary of all causes of acne, teens are prone to having pimples. However, hormonal changes occur at other times also. Whenever there is fluctuation in levels of androgen in any male or female (e.g. at the time of menstruation), one may experience more pimple formation.
Sometimes, some women have hormone-related issues like PCOS or PCOD etc, which is not just one of the main causes of acne but also of fluctuation in menstrual cycle, growth of facial hair, fatigue, etc.
Is menstruation one of the causes of acne?
Menstruation in itself is not one of the causes of acne. It is the hormonal changes that some women experience before or during periods that may contribute to the causes of acne.
In some women, androgen levels get higher just before or during periods, leading to greater secretion of sebum. If your skin has open pores filled with excess oil, chances are that bacteria may infect this pore, increasing the risk of pimples.
Stress related causes of acne
Though stress isn’t directly related to acne, but it definitely has come to the fore for being one of the major causes of acne nowadays. This is because when there is a lot of stress, the body produces more cortisol and androgen. The fluctuation of these hormones causes greater oil production in the skin, which may worsen pimples that already exist, or cause more breakouts of pimples.
Can certain cosmetics be the cause of acne?
Although it is generally considered to be a myth that cosmetics are the cause of acne. However, some people should avoid using certain kind of cosmetics that can be causes of acne for them.
Comedo-genic cosmetics are those which are excessively oily, or have substances that my block skin pores. Therefore, people who have skin that is prone to pimples should avoid local cosmetics, highly greasy sunscreen lotions, and creams that may further clog skin pores and cause pimples.
You should also avoid excessively gel-based face-washes that completely dry your skin. Dry skin would also mean that skin would get irritated, and it may result in pimples. Wash your face softly, only 2-3 times a day, to clear the oil and dirt if any.
Food habits are important causes of acne
What you eat has a major effect on what your body looks like on the outside. Although, western dermatologists say that eating oily food has no effect on excessive oil production and does not cause pimples. However, many other dermatologists do suggest making changes to one’s diet to accelerate the acne treatment process.
Products like meat, dairy, cheese, etc have high amounts of saturated fats that are very harmful for the skin and the brain. Apart from that, eating processed foods like chips, candy, biscuits & cookies, etc leads to fluctuations in hormones and enzymes, which is never good for the body. Avoiding food that is high in fats, like peanuts, dairy products, fried food like French fries and donuts etc is always a step in the right direction.
It is always a good thing to include more organic and natural substitutes in your diet. You should eat a lot of fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin A, and vitamin C – like oranges, tomatoes, papaya, banana, melon, guava, bell peppers, and green leafy vegetables. You should include whole grains like whole wheat, millet, oats, legumes and lentils in your diet, and cut out sugars, oils, junk food, etc.
Touching Face too much
It is important to avoid touching the infected skin, because that is the most important causes of acne infection spreading to the clearer parts of your skin. When you burst a pimple, it doesn’t just leave acne scars but also the bacteria spreads to unaffected parts of the face.
Apart from that, our fingers and hands gather all kinds of dirt and bacteria. When you touch your face, this bacteria get transferred to the face, where it comes in contact with open pores that are clogged with oil, leading to formation of pimples.
As discussed above, we know that when pores are clogged, blackheads and whiteheads are produced. While these are non inflammatory in nature, there are other outcomes of acne like papules, pustules or formations of cysts which are more likely to result in acne scars. The latter being inflammatory in nature has more probability of causing skin damage and hence forming acne scars.
Causes of acne scars
Why acne scars are formed is due to inflammation of the skin, which is caused because of harmful bacteria that cause damage to the tissues. An acne scar generally is a sign that the healing process is complete. When our body has recovered from a wound or an infection, scars are a residual of the healing mechanism.
When the skin has an excess of oil, dead cells and bacteria, swelling takes place. Sometimes, the swelling breaks and it creates an abrasion or a tear. In many cases, the abrasion can heal without leaving any acne scars.
However, sometimes, the pimple is ruptured badly, spreading the infection to the unaffected skin area. The skin reacts to this by producing more collagen.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein that facilitates tightness and flexibility of the skin by replacing dead cells. Formation of collagen is never a smooth process. While acne can cause acne scars, you should know that all acne doesn’t end with acne scars.
Different kind of Acne scars
As per their appearance as well as the nature of damage, there are different types of acne scars.
Hypertrophic acne scars
Hypertrophic means enlargement or expansion of any part or organ of the body due to rise in the number of comprising cells. Severe kind of acne causes excessive skin damage. To heal this damage, the skin produces excessive collagen.
Generally, production of collagen is good, but excessive collagen leads to the formation of dense acne scars. The scars produced are called “hypertrophic “or keloid scars. Keloid refers to irregular deep tissue produced at the site of injury or infection.
Atrophic acne scars
“Atrophic” means any kind of degeneration of an organ or part of the body. When acne cause damage to the tissues, sharp and deeply penetrated scars are produced. These are called icepack acne scars.
When the scars are broad and deep, they are known as boxcar scars. Both icepick and boxcar scars are generally known as atrophic or depressed acne scars.
We all relate acne primarily with the face. But a more severe form of acne is “bacne” or back acne. While people who suffer from acne or acne scars on face may not necessarily have the infection on the rest of body, almost everyone who has back acne has pimples on face and shoulders. Like the skin on the face, the back acne is caused because the skin on the back has an abundance of sebaceous (oil) glands.
Is there a specific treatment for back acne?
Though clothes are not the primary causes of back acne, but certain styles of clothing can cause irritation and aggravate chances of back acne on skin that may already be infected. Rubbing on skin, or carrying excess weights on the back can lead to scraping, increase the back acne infection.
Avoid tight fitting clothes made of synthetic fabric, heavy bags or sacks, and sports cushions or straps. This will avoid constant scraping or rubbing of the back acne. You can take a quick shower after exercise or exhausting activities so that sweat does not aggravate the back acne and to facilitate the acne treatment process in general.
Apart from that, whatever are the causes of acne on your face are the causes of acne on the rest of your body as well. Therefore, when you consult a doctor, he will prescribe the right acne treatment which will also help with your back acne.