Causes of Acne

Causes of Acne

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the world. Everyone knows what it is, and nobody wants it. 

Acne is seen as something only teenagers deal with, caused by eating habits and hormones, but in reality, there’s a lot more to it. More than just teenagers deal with this condition, and there’s a variety of causes. 

Let’s focus on the causes of acne, while also covering what it is and how to prevent it. Understanding the causes of a condition is important because it allows you to take the next steps and find a treatment for it. 

What is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles under your skin become clogged. It’s considered an inflammatory skin disorder and happens when sebum gets trapped under your skin.

Sebum is the oil produced inside your skin and can get trapped with dead skin cells instead of emptying onto the skin through the surface of your pores. 

The mixture of oil and cells allows bacteria to grow inside the plugged follicle, causing inflammation, which is the swelling and redness that can be seen.

There are also different types of acne, including whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pimples, cysts and nodules.


Whiteheads produce a white bump and stay under your skin. 


Blackheads are plugged follicles that reach the surface of your skin and open, they’re black/brown because the air discolors the sebum. 


Papules are inflamed lesions that appear as small, pink bumps and can be tender to the touch. Pimples are similar to papules, but they are topped by white or yellow pus-filled lesions and have a red, swollen base. 

Cysts and nodules

Nodules are large, painful tissue-filled lesions lodged deep into your skin. Cysts are similar to nodules, however, they’re filled with fluid instead of tissue. 

Who Gets Acne?

People of all ages and races get acne. It’s still more common in teen years and young adults though and often goes away by adulthood, but it can still be experienced by adults as well. It’s also more common in males during their teenage years and more common in women into adulthood.

Where Does Acne Form?

Acne can form anywhere on your body; however, acne most often appears in areas where there is a high concentration of sebaceous glands. Most people will get acne on their face, chest, upper back, shoulders, and neck.

What Leads to the Development of Acne?

There are a few physical reasons that acne can form on your skin. Excess or high production of oil in your pores is one reason, so if you have oily skin you’re more likely to get acne than someone with dry skin.


photo of woman with acne covering face


The buildup of dead skin cells in your pores is another thing that leads to acne, leading to bacteria growth. The growth of bacteria in your pores causes inflammation and red, painful, swelling of the area. All these factors have to be present for acne to happen.

Can Hormones Cause Acne?

There are many natural factors that may cause acne to form, hormones being one of them. As teenagers reach puberty, androgens, which are male sex hormones, increase in boys and girls and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. This is why teenagers are often more prone to acne. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy can also cause acne.

Psychological stress and depression are also hormonal causes of acne that can be common. Excessive corticosteroids (Cushing disease) and enzyme deficiency (sterol hydroxylase deficiency) are other causes, but these are rare.

What Environmental Factors Cause Acne?

Environmental factors such as high humidity, cosmetic use, and excessive dairy can be causes of acne. High humidity leads to swelling of your skin and may add too much moisture which could result in acne.

Certain cosmetics, especially moisturizers, foundations, and pomades contain ingredients that may cause acne. Watch out for products that contain lanolin, petrolatum, vegetable oils, butyl stearate, lauryl alcohol, and oleic acid.

Pressure from headbands and chin straps (for example: “fiddler’s neck”) may result in acne because of irritation of the skin. This irritation could also be caused by items such as helmets, tight collars, and backpacks. 

Do Certain Foods Cause Acne?

How much of a role does diet play in acne though? 

There are some studies that suggest there is a link between the food we eat and acne, but it’s difficult to study and measure. 

Acne is reported to be less common in regions that eat a diet with a lower glycemic index, including indigenous people from Kitava and Papua New Guinea. These people also tend to reach sexual maturity later than those in cities that consume higher glycemic index foods. 


photo of pizza


Fatty acids are needed to form sebum oil, and studies show that some unsaturated fatty acids can increase sebum production. One study found that omega-6 found in almond milk might be more likely to cause acne than casein A1 found in milk. 

That’s why if your diet contains a lot of fatty and sugary foods this may be the reason for your acne. People with acne report improvements in their skin when they follow a low-glycemic index diet and increase their consumption of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and garlic. It can also be a good idea to drink less milk and eat less sugar and unhealthy carbs.

Acne Myths

Many people think that certain factors cause acne when in reality they don’t, or the effect is little. Specifically, chocolate and greasy food doesn’t always lead to acne. 

Though diet can play a role in acne, as we just talked about, greasy foods aren’t always a factor in acne. Healthy diets can improve acne, but as said, it’s difficult to measure if there’s a direct correlation between greasy foods and acne.

Hygiene is another big acne myth. Acne isn’t caused by uncleanliness or dirtiness. In fact, scrubbing the skin too hard or cleansing it with harsh soaps or chemicals can irritate your skin and worsen acne. 

Cosmetics with oils and certain ingredients can cause acne if the oils you use are comedogenic (clogs pores) but this doesn’t mean all cosmetics are harmful. Just be sure to remove makeup regularly and find oil-free products.

Acne Complications and Long-Term Effects

Serious cases of acne can often leave long-term effects on your skin. Skin changes may occur, such as hyperpigmentation (darker skin) or hypopigmentation (lighter skin). 

Acne can also leave scars such as pitted skin (acne scars) and thick scars (keloids) which can remain long-term after the acne has healed. That’s why it’s important to treat acne as soon as possible and take steps to prevent it in the future.

When to See a Doctor

If skin care remedies don’t clear your acne, see a primary care doctor for further treatment. Doctors can prescribe stronger medications. If you experience severe acne, or it persists, seek medical treatment from a doctor who specializes in skin conditions (dermatologist). 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that some nonprescription acne lotions, cleansers, and other skin products can cause a worsening effect or serious reaction. It’s important to check with a professional before using a skincare product to cure your acne.

Does Acne Clear Up on Its Own?

Yes, it does. Products and treatments are used to help prevent acne in the future or lessen it overall. Scientists still don’t understand exactly how acne naturally clears up since it doesn’t always coincide with a reduction in sebum production or a reduction in the number of bacteria. 

It could relate to changes in the activity of your immune system or changes in your sebaceous glands. The body is complex in how it heals itself and keeps itself healthy.

How is Acne Treated?

If your doctor gets involved to help treat your acne, they may use stronger acne medications such as doxycycline, erythromycin, tetracycline, minocycline, or others. 

Spironolactone or birth control can be used by women to manage hormones to control acne.

Photodynamic therapy is a laser procedure used to control moderate to severe acne. Isotretinoin is a prescription medicine taken by mouth that reduces the size of the sebaceous glands that make sebum. This medicine can have major side effects and shouldn’t be taken by pregnant women. 


dermatoligist conducting lazer therapy


Talk to your doctor about these medications and treatments and find what works best for you. Proper treatment may help reduce acne, and other treatments such as chemical peels, dermal filler injections, laser resurfacing, dermabrasion, phototherapy, and pulsed light therapy can all help remove or soften already formed scars.

At-Home Remedies for Acne

While many at-home remedies don’t have much scientific backing, it could be good to try some to see if they might work. Many people claim that they work, so it could be worth giving it a shot. 

Starting with apple cider vinegar, fermented apple cider has the ability to fight many types of bacteria and fungi, so people claim it helps with acne. It’s affordable, easy to find, and helps the appearance of scars, but a con is that it may irritate your skin.

Zinc supplements are supported by scientific studies and have a wide variety of benefits. They may irritate the stomach or gut for some people, but according to a recent 2020 study, those treated with zinc had significant improvements in blemishes. 

Other remedies, such as honey and cinnamon masks, tea tree oil, and green tea, may cure your acne. It doesn’t hurt to try them out as long as you’re being cautious and stop if something seems wrong or irritating.

Product Recommendations for Treating Acne

Lastly, we have a list of serums and gel products that are proven to help with acne. They have more support backing up their benefits than many of the home remedies, yet they’re still at-home treatments that don’t require a doctor. Look through some of our acne treatment product recommendations and find one that works best for you.

Cica Method

Cica Method contains the miracle ingredient Centella Asiatica extract which is super popular in East Asian countries due to its excellent skin healing properties. This wonderful ingredient works better than Salicylic Acid for acne while being much safer and gentler. We recommend trying the entire line because it contains all the essential steps (except makeup removal and cleanser) in a skincare regimen.


Cica Method Infographic

Cica Method

NOA NOA LUXE Medicated Cleansing Gel

This cleansing gel is used to remove makeup, but it also cleans your pores and prevents the spread of bacteria that causes acne and inflammation of your skin. The gel removes excess sebum and contains vitamins C, E, and D which soothe inflammation, moisturize dry skin, and prevent further occurrence of acne. 

It also has natural extracts of artichoke, lemongrass, Dutch mustard, burdock, and sage, which all have a calming effect and soften your skin. This combination of ingredients is specifically formulated to help with acne.


NOA NOA LUXE Medicated Cleansing Gel

NOA NOA LUXE Medicated Cleansing Gel

HYAKKASO Natural Face Soap for acne treatment

The Hyakkaso soap bar is designed to cleanse while gently removing dead skin cells. It exfoliates, moisturizes, and helps treat oily skin. This soap bar is meant for acne treatment and has a restoration healing effect when used regularly. It contains 22 types of herbal extracts and is suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin. This soap bar is great if you’re looking to eliminate and prevent acne.


HYAKKASO Natural Face Soap for acne treatment

HYAKKASO Natural Face Soap for acne treatment


This serum contains a stable form of vitamin C that is suitable for all skin types. It has an anti-inflammatory effect and fights bacteria that cause acne, stimulates collagen synthesis, neutralizes skin-damaging free radicals, and protects against damage caused by excessive UV rays. Its special formula balances your skin’s production of sebum and combats hyperpigmentation and dark spots without causing irritation. A perfect solution if you’re looking for effective acne treatment.





We hope these products are helpful in keeping your skin smooth and free of acne. They’re great options that provide amazing benefits to all skin types. Check out each product and be sure to do your own research in making sure the ingredients are good for your skin. 

Your Journey to Clear Skin

Acne is a tough skin disorder to get rid of so hopefully this article gave you some good tips and pointers for how to figure out the causes and take steps to clear your skin. 

Acne can be a source of low esteem, while also painful and uncomfortable, so treating it is necessary and will reduce long-term skin issues. We wish you the best in achieving smooth, acne-free skin! 

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