Is Acne Genetic?

Is Acne Genetic?


By Kali Kushner


Yes! There are a lot of studies connecting acne in our genes. Studies have shown that if you have relatives, especially parents who suffered from acne, you are four times more likely to have it too. Acne can indeed be inherited from your mother or father.



Okay not those jeans, but you know what I mean, genetic. Long story short, yes it is. Longer version, think about people that you know that have clear skin, yet they don't do anything to maintain that skin, they don't have a skincare routine, they don't eat properly, they don't work out. I bet you can think of at least one person, but yet their skin is flawless. While you're over here drinking celery juice, running the 5k, and not consuming any sugar.

I put two and two together, I guess I put that acne was genetic together when I started dating my husband because he can eat literally anything he wants, and his skin is really clear. He has probably had one zit the whole time we've been together. And then I started thinking about his family, and his family is that same way they all eat whatever they want, do whatever they want, and their skin is completely clear. None of them really have ever dealt with acne.

Now thinking about my family when my sister was younger she dealt with acne, one of my sisters older than both of us still deals with some  body acne, and my mom who is obviously much older still gets pimples around that time of the month. Just from these separate instances, I can tell you acne is genetic, but there are also tons of studies online that we can also discuss.

Another thing, I recently went on a road trip and Me and my mother-in-law was in the bathroom, but I had just walked out of the stall and she was standing in front of the sink, and she was washing her face with the hand soap and she was like, "It's an exfoliant."

And I was like, "Oh my days. I could never do that. I'm breaking out literally just looking at you." So, genetics man I swear.

Have you ever noticed that some people never get a single pimple their entire lives? Okay maybe one or two whiteheads randomly, but still! They can have the worst skincare routine, diet, and never work out but somehow their skin is magically clear- while I'm over here chugging down a celery juice each morning, running a 5k, practicing yoga, and still suffering consistently with acne! But yet there's STILL this terribly misunderstood stigma that people who suffer from acne are unkempt or need a cleaner diet- what's up with that?

What about the fact that when one member of the family has clear skin, the rest of the family typically does too? I never thought about it until I looked at my husband's family, they ALL have clear skin. All of them, seriously I mean the whole fam bam. They don't use any fancy skincare products, eat whatever they like, and have generally just never had to worry about their complexion. Actually, on a recent road trip, I was leaving the restroom stall when I saw my mother-in-law using bathroom hand soap to wash off her face because she thought the little beads were exfoliating. I couldn't quit laughing but also thought, wow that must be nice to just do whatever and not worry!

So why is it that some people can get away with an improper diet, little to no workout routine, and wash their face with hand soap but have clear glowing skin?

Aha, It's all about the genes!


How Genetics Influence your Skin


What do I mean by genetics? What I mean is we inherit certain traits from different parents, so blue eyes, red hair, brown eyes, whatever, you inherit these traits from your parents. One trait that we also inherit from our parents that have been studied is acne, and acne is actually more closely relied to the x chromosome then the y chromosome, so your dad has an x and a y, and your mom has two x chromosomes, and they have figured out that people like me if my dad had acne I actually don't have and not my mom. So if my dad had acne and not my mom, I have less of a chance of getting it then just if my mom had had acne. Do you know what I mean? Acne is more prevalent in the x chromosome. That's especially true in my case because I think maybe one time my dad had a pimple and my mom still breaks out, and all three of us girls still break out. Great. It's great, it's good, everything's good.

Genetics plays a huge role when it comes to the development of acne, meaning that if your mom and dad had acne, it is likely that you will develop it too. Not absolutely 100% guaranteed, but likely. The more people in your family have acne, uncles, brothers, sisters, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, the greater the chances of developing it becomes. We inherit certain genes from different parents, which are known as hereditary factors. Blue eyes, red hair, small nose, etc. and acne is no different.

There have been studies proving higher instances of acne when the mother, rather than the father, had acne. This suggests that acne may possibly be linked to the X chromosome rather than the Y. Interestingly enough I can only think of maybe one time growing up that my dad ever had a pimple, while my mom, at 50 years old, still gets a pimple around that time of the month which leads me to strongly believe that yes in my case, the X chromosome must carry the trait.

In addition, a study published in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Acne and Roscea reported:

"Neonatal, nodulocystic, and conglobate acne have proven genetic influences. Post adolescent acne is related with a first-degree relative with the condition in 50 % of the cases."

There was also a recent study done in pathogenesis and the treatment of acne, and what it reported was that you have about a 50/50 chance of developing the disease yourself if your parents have it, so it's not absolute, it's not guaranteed, you have about a 50/50 chance. And I feel like that's true too because I know tons of older people who have kids, their skins completely clear, or vice versa. Parents have clear skin and then kids have acne. So, it's really just one of those things that you might pick up the traitor you might not.

So, if one of your parents had acne you have a 50/50 chance of developing the disease yourself, so again not guaranteed but it's likely.


The IGF-1 Gene and Acne


Okay so this is where we get all scientific and fancy, but keep reading because it’s important- I promise! 

There have been multiple studies conducted linking acne to a variety of genes, specifically IGF-1 and the AR gene. IGF-1 is basically a hormone that controls bodily inflammation.

In a more recent study  published in PubMed, acne was found to have a clear correlation with IGF-1 and that certain dietary foods (such as milk and dairy products) which contain the growth hormone IGF-1, aggravate acne symptoms further.

"Higher IGF-1 levels correlate with the clinical manifestation of acne"


"Acne correlates with increased sebum production. GH, insulin, and IGF-1 increase sebaceous gland growth, differentiation, and sebaceous lipogenesis. Remarkably, increased serum IGF-1 levels have been measured in women with post-adolescent acne. Recently, an association between IGF-1 gene polymorphism and acne has been reported. Patients who observed an aggravation of their acne by food intake exhibited higher IGF-1 serum levels compared with those who observed no acne aggravation by food intake."

Basically, this says that those who suffer with adult acne have higher IGF-1 levels AND acne that is easily aggravated by food such as dairy, refined carbs, and saturated fats, can be linked to a higher IGF-1 level.

Pretty crazy right? But it explains a lot! Acne sufferers who already have higher levels of systemic inflammation can't deal with the excess inflammation caused by processed meats and dairy. This is why when one person's eating the standard American diet their skin may be completely fine because they're not predisposed to the condition or higher levels of inflammation (basically their DNA is wired differently).



Will I get Acne if my Parents Had it?

 A big thing again is, will you get acne if your parents had it? Don't fret just because your parents had acne does not not necessarily mean that you yourself are going to get it. Again, it's about 50/50 chance, and just because it's genetic doesn't mean that there's nothing you can do about it, so you shouldn't feel like hopeless or out of options. I kind of feel like to a certain extent that is sometimes used as an excuse. I think a lot of other things go into it, like I said, it could be widespread bodily inflammation, food sensitivities, it could be the cleanser you're using, hair products, anything. But I think saying, "Oh it is genetics so I can't control it," is kind of to a certain extent yes, but I think that you can still manage it in everyday choices that you make.

There are plenty of clear skinned kids whose parents have acne and vice versa. There's a lot more that goes into acne than just genetics, it could be hormonal, dietary, overly aggressive skincare products, excessive stress, an overly acidic body, gut problems, uncontrollable bodily inflammation, and the list goes on and on and on.

So, just because you are predisposed to having acne because of your genes, it doesn't mean you will are determined to have red raging deep uncontrollable cystic acne. Just like if you are predisposed to obesity it doesn't necessarily mean you will be overweight. I like to think that we are (somewhat) in control of our acne with the choices we make. Here me out on this!

For example, if you are overly stressed and do nothing about it you may get a blemish but if you choose to workout it can help your body to cope with stress and release endorphins that will make you feel amazing. Also, if you eat loads of sugary cereal, dairy, and processed meats rather than organic vegetables, whole grains, and organic meat your skin may be a reflection of that.

Of course, there's always behind the scenes issues such as hormonal imbalances, food intolerances and gut problems but that doesn't mean you have to live with your acne at in its worst possible state. Sometimes breakouts are inevitable but that doesn’t mean you should give up. You can always try to improve your acne and figure out the root cause by being proactive through choices you make everyday.  

What I mean by that is instead of choosing something super high in sugar or refined carbs that you know is going to spike your blood sugar, instead chose salmon salad instead of staying up all night, which you know is going to throw off your body and your hormone levels, and your stress. Make sure you get eight hours of sleep. It's just little things that you can do to help combat it, and I really do believe that. I believe that healing acne is more of a holistic approach. I don't think it is just one thing, I think most of the time it is a couple of different things that manifest itself into acne. So I would not say, "Oh I have it so it's genetic, I can't do anything about it." I think that there are always things you can do about it, and you shouldn't just blame your disease on your genes, because you can always find a way. Even if like now I'm breaking out because I changed my diet, find what works for you, find what doesn't work for you. Like I said, it could be so many different things.

And that doesn't mean there could be behind the scenes stuff such as hormonal imbalances and gut issues as well, because those things are kind of harder to identify so I know that it is super frustrating to pinpoint what exactly is causing your breakout. Just don't be a cop out and say, "Oh it's genetics so I can't do anything about it." Because to a certain extent again, yes, but there are small little things that you can do to try to figure it out, and I think that's the most important thing is to just be as proactive as you can about it.

Long story short, yes acne is genetic but you can kind of try to control it or put out that inflammation by the little everyday choices that you make, from food, sleep, exercise, etc. Acne is in your genes. It's in the genes.

Do you agree that acne is genetic? Let me know your thoughts. Comment down below. 



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1 comment



My parents never had it. Well my mum no her sister had bad acne. Her brother too. I still hate them not having it. , my father had a very minor problem it went away fast his sister he said had it bad,but what’s bad to them. I had acne cystic it ruined me I was only saved by Accutane 1983. 1x 40 MG a day 4 months. I’m still mad at them my siblings never had it lucky f#$%&_ maggots.

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