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5 Causes of Acne

5 Causes of Acne 5 Causes of Acne 5 Causes of Acne

Acne is one of the most common skin diseases in the United States. In fact, approximately 40 to 50 million Americans are currently dealing with acne, according to statistics provided by the American Academy of Dermatology. Acne can range in severity from mild acne comedones, such as a blackhead, to severe inflammatory acne, such as an acne nodule. Acne is more common during your teenage years, but it can form at any time for a variety of reasons.

Sebum Oil

One of the main contributing factors to acne formation is a type of oil secreted by your skin called sebum. Sebum is produced by your sebaceous glands as a protective oil to help control the loss of moisture from the skin. Unfortunately, when too much sebum is present on the skin, it can combine with other substances, including bacteria and skin cells, to form small plugs in the follicles called comedones. Comedones are the first stage of acne formation.

Excessive Skin Shedding

When too many sloughed skin cells are present on the surface and follicles of the skin, acne can also form. The more skin cells available on the skin, the more material there is available to form acne comedones. Common causes for excess skin shedding include dandruff, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.


Puberty is one of the most common causes of acne. As the body hits the age of puberty---which varies depending on the individual---an increase of androgen hormones occurs to facilitate the body's maturing process. Although androgens are male-specific hormones, such as testosterone, women also show an increase in androgens in lesser amounts, produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. Androgens increase the production of sebum oil in the body, resulting in greater occurrences of acne.

Adult Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalances during your adult years can also cause problems with acne outbreaks. For example, during pregnancy your body increases the production of androgens to facilitate fetal development, resulting in an increase in acne, according to the National Women's Health Information Center. During menopause your body may once again become hormonally imbalanced, also resulting in higher androgen levels, which increases the production of sebum. For men, testosterone supplements or steroid use can cause hormonal imbalance that results in a greater number of acne outbreaks.


Bacteria can also play a role in acne development. As comedone plugs form on the skin, a type of bacteria known as Propionibacterium acne, or P. acnes, can colonize beneath the plug. As the bacteria thrive in the follicle, the body reacts by sending white blood cells to fight off the infection. As blood cells pile up, pus forms, which contributes to the development of more inflammatory forms of acne, such as acne cysts or pustules.

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