What causes acne?

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Acne, pimples or zits are all common names that refer to outbreaks on the skin due to our pores located under the skin becoming clogged. When our pores get clogged with sebum which is an essential oil responsible for preventing our skin from becoming dry and dead skin cells shedding these unpleasant skin breakouts of acne may occur. Acne outbreaks most commonly occur on the skin, but they can also appear on other parts of the body such as the back, shoulders and chest.

When our skin is healthy the sebaceous glands which are responsible for enabling the sebum to empty out on to the skin surface through the pores can do their job properly. But when sebaceous glands are not able to do their job properly inflammation occurs which essentially can lead to acne breakouts.

In addition, other conditions that can help the appearance of acne can occur in instances when Keratinocytes which is a type of skin cell which rises to the top when skin is shedding fills the pores. This filling of the pores with Keratinocytes prevents sebum from reaching top of the skin.

Under these condition which causes a mixture of oils and skin cells to clog the pores bacteria can grow and result are inflammation, swelling, redness, heat and even pain that appears in the form of acne, pimple or zits.

Although acne is commonly associated with younger people in particular those in their teens and twenties it can also affect people even when they get older.

Let’s look at the particular causes of acne more closely

As we mentioned acne develops when our pores are blocked due to the excessive production of oil and dead skin cells which leads to development of bacteria. These are the root causes of acne, but other conditions can also enhance the development of acne and let’s look at these more closely now.


Androgens are male sex hormones that are found in both boys and girls. These male hormones which increase in both males and females during their puberty can lead to the enlargement of sebaceous glands which causes more sebum to be produced. Due to the excessive sebum being produced because of the enlargement of sebaceous glands pores can be blocked and acne can appear during puberty.

In addition, pregnancy is another condition that can lead to hormonal changes which can cause acne to appear. We have written a great article in the past if you want to know if your acne is hormonal or bacteria which sheds light into hormonal acne even further!

Family History

Researchers have also found a link between acne development in families. It has been observed that children of parents that have acne are more likely to also develop acne.


As we have mentioned due to hormonal changes our bodies go through during puberty in teenage years acne can appear frequently.


When certain medications are taken that contain ingredients such as hormones, corticosteroids, and lithium acne can also appear.

Under what conditions acne can get worst

In the previous section we discussed conditions that caused acne. Now let’s have a look at conditions that do not cause acne but can make already existing acne worst.

The first thing that can make already existing acne worst is diet. We have discussed in the past about a link between diet and acne and what foods cause acne. Certain studies have shown links between chocolate and acne and the consumption of certain other types of foods can make acne worst.

Other conditions that can make existing acne worst are environmental irritants such as pollution, high humidity, stress, picking at blemishes and scrubbing the skin too hard.

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