What causes acne anyway?

Acne is one of the most common, and most frustrating, skin conditions to plague us today. This problem isn’t just a facial concern, as acne can appear anywhere there is skin (but is most common on the face, neck, shoulders, chest or back). It’s also not just a teenage problem. Acne does not discriminate based on age, size, gender or skin type. Anyone can suffer from acne.

What is Acne?

Our skin is covered in oil glands with secrete sebum to lubricate the skin. Sebum (an oily lubricant) works to move hair follicles up towards the surface but also provides moisture to protect the skin. When the process works well, the skin remains healthy and clear. Acne is a byproduct of this process not functioning optimally.

There are multiple causes for acne including having too much or too little oil production, accumulation of dead skin cells, an abundance of sebum buildup on hair follicles that clogs the pores, or bacteria build-up caused once a pore is clogged.

  • Whiteheads: When pores become clogged by dead skin and oil buildup, they can begin to bulge. This produces what is known as a whitehead.
  • Blackheads: Blackheads look like pores clogged with dirt but they are just pores that have opened at the surface and filled with a combination of oil and built-up bacteria. This occurrence, when exposed to oxygen, causes the discoloration.
  • Pimples: The dreaded pimples are caused by hair follicles once they become infected. These infections produce lumps underneath the skin that then cause raised red spots on the surface.

What Does & Doesn’t Cause Acne

Anything that contributes to the pores becoming clogged and motivates bacteria build-up is going to cause acne. Additionally, stress, diet, specific medications, hormone imbalances can cause, or amplify, acne.

There are studies that suggest that dairy, carbohydrate-rich foods, and chocolate may be triggers, but there are also ones that show they don’t. Scientists do know that certain medications and hormones can affect the level of sebum being produced and can make an already existing problem worse.

Know what doesn’t cause acne? Dirty skin.

Having dirt on your skin doesn’t mean that you will get acne.

Dirt only becomes an issue if the pores become clogged. Makeup and cosmetics, on their own, won’t be a problem either. The idea is to have a cleansing routine that keeps the pores clear and minimizes skin irritation, since aggravating the hair follicles can lead to pimples.

Since acne is a problem that begins underneath the skin, directly within the pores, the goal is to keep the pores open and clear. While not a cure for existing acne, developing the right skincare routine is part of maintaining your complexion.

Once you have acne, you will need to seek out professional advice and treatment. Always be sure to consult a professional dermatologist if you have skin concerns as they will be able to put all the pieces together, diagnosis, and suggest the appropriate treatment.

Skin Care for a Glowing Complexion

Here are a few suggestions for a daily routine to cleanse and nourish your skin (acne-prone, or not).

Say no to Body Scrubs

These popular cleaning tools are breeding grounds for bacteria. There is simply no way to keep the buildup from occurring. It’s better to use either a bamboo fiber brush or a clean cotton washcloth. If using washcloths, be sure to use a fresh one for each wash!

Use a pure and natural soap to keep your skin clean.

Your dermatologist should be able to recommend a soap suitable for your skin.

Gentle exfoliation is a must!

It’s impossible to keep everything out of your pores – plus dead skin accumulation can cause just as much aggravation as too much oil. Using a gentle exfoliating soap or scrub once a week can help remove dead skin cells.

Detox (and exfoliate) your skin with a face mask.

Face masks are great for your face, and can also be used on your shoulders or back if acne is a problem in areas other than your face.

Moisturizer is key

Especially in dry climates – but really just all the time and for everyone. Use a nourishing moisturizer, like body butter, to keep your skin hydrated.

Remember, if you already have acne you will need more than a cleansing routine to clear up your skin. Take the time to speak with a skincare professional to make a plan before doing anything else.

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