What Causes Acne: A Brief Explanation (Made Simple to Understand)

What Causes Acne: A Brief Explanation (Made Simple to Understand)


Let’s quickly talk about acne, a common skin disease formally known as acne vulgaris. It affects a lot of people, and I thought it might be helpful to explain what causes it.

Treatments (covered in another post)https://youtu.be/Cc1rYPY6I5o

According to the american academy of dermatology, acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million to 50 million Americans. Nearly 85 percent of all people have acne at some point in their lives, more than 40 percent of adolescents have acne or acne scarring as teenagers and the total direct cost associated with the treatment of acne exceeded $2.2 billion in 2004.

acne follicle sebum gland skin care example

In this image you can see a hair follicle and hair strand coming out of the skin, You can also see a sebaceous gland and sebum. This is normal, healthy healthy skin on the left, and the progression of acne as you move to step 2 and step 3. The purpose of the sebum, produced by the sebaceous gland, is to lubricate the skin and hair as well as trap in moisture. It’s also a natural exfoliatiant of dead skin cells. These glands can be found anywhere there is hair.

Essentially, Acne appears when the sebaceous gland and hair follicle complex become obstructed. We commonly call these clogged pores.  However, that’s a bit of an oversimplification. There are essentially 4 things that can contribute to these clogged pores.

1. Hormones

Hormones, notably testosterone and other androgens can contribute to acne. This often occurs in puberty when androgen levels rise in both males and females (yes women have testosterone too!). The testosterone and similar hormones cause the sebaceous glands to increase in number and this corresponds to an increase in facial hair during puberty. You may have heard of someone using anabolic steroids getting bad acne, now you know why.

2. Infectious

Sometimes bacteria that live on our skin also get inside the clogged pore. The bug that causes this is called Propionibacterium acnes. Once inside these clogged pores, the bacteria have a virtual petri dish to thrive in. This is why antibiotics can be helpful to treat acne.

3. Inflammation

The bacteria can cause inflammation and if left untreated, ultimately lead to scarring and changes skin pigmentation. If the inflammation goes deep into the skin, an acne cyst or nodule appears. This is where whiteheads and blackheads can come from. Sometimes you may hear them referred to as comedones.

4. Poor exfoliation

I mentioned before that the sebaceous glands help exfoliate dead skin cells. When this process is slowed or stopped by clogged pores, this too can contribute to acne. Clogged pores and skin exfoliation can still occur despite good facial hygiene.

So in conclusion, acne is a disease of obstructed sebaceous glands; more commonly known as clogged pores. The things that cause and/or exacerbate this process includes hormones and hormonal changes, bacterial infection, inflammatory processes and poor exfoliation.

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