By: Banish & Tracy Ming
Most or a lot of us suffer from acne. Who doesn’t? And the big question is, why do we get acne in the first place? What actually causes acne and how do we prevent and treat acne?
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil or overproduced sebum. Acne also often causes whiteheads, blackheads or pimples that usually appear on our face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders and affects both teenagers and adults alike. Acne is very common and normal and not due to bad hygiene.
There are four main factors that causes acne:
- Sebaceous production
- Dead skin cells
- Clogged pores
But acne doesn’t just stop at these 4 main cause. There are a lot of underlying causes that lead up to the 4 main causes above. Let me elaborate on these other causes one by one:
Additional Factors That Cause Acne
- Digestive issues
- Immune system dysfunction
1) Digestive Issues – This may be somehow a confusing one on how or what digestive system issues or problems have to do with acne. When your digestive tract is impaired, or not regularly emptied, toxins can get absorbed into the blood, and that blood goes to your face, causing skin lesions. Digestive acne appears on the forehead and on the cheeks. There are several things that could be wrong with your gut that could cause acne. You could have a parasite, gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, candida overgrowth, bacterial infection, GERD, or even low stomach acid.
Researchers have shown that the gut microbiome can have an effect on mood and digestive health, and more recently it has been found that the balance of gut bacteria can have an impact on the skin as well.
2) Genetics – Okay, this is already a no brainer statement but yes, genetics is somehow related to acne development. Genetics play 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.
Some families may have a hereditary tendency to overproduce dead skin cells, which may lead to more clogged pores, which can cause acne. Or, a family line may have a genetic tendency to overproduce sebum, leading to oily skin that can trap bacteria in pores, resulting in more frequent breakouts. Additionally, as some types of breakouts are hormonal, you may be genetically predisposed to producing excess androgen.
3) Immune System Dysfunction – Our skin suffers along with our immune system when it malfunctions. Acne bacteria just redirect the immune system’s “missiles” to the skin itself. They themselves cause very little inflammation. But when the bacteria are killed, the immune system stops destroying skin.
4) Inflammation - Inflamed acne consists of swelling, redness, and pores that are deeply clogged with bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells. Sometimes, bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) can cause inflamed acne, too.
There are different types of inflamed acne or inflammatory acne: inflamed comedones, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.
5) Hormones - Hormonal acne isn’t just acne that pops up around menses – it also includes acne in teenagers and adults during hormonal shifts, women with PCOS, as well as the skin’s general sensitivity to hormonal fluctuations.
Hormones are responsible for the growth of our oil glands and skin, and they do not have the ability to produce acne until they are fully matured. This is why children (unless glands are matured) do not experience acne. The skin is a target for these hormones. Which hormones are we talking about specifically? The four biggest hormones which affect our skin health are estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, and thyroid hormones.
Hormonal acne is caused by our menstruation (for women), stress, sugar level and dairy intake.
6) Diet – We may or may not believe it, but diet also plays a role in acne development, most especially if your sugar level is high. At some point in our lives, we can’t help but eat junk foods, sweet stuff like chocolates and even the burgers and fries we see at fast food restaurants.
Many of you know that diet can make a large impact on how your skin looks but what many articles fail to tell you are what to eat and just focus on what not to eat. Most readers will find themselves; including myself at one point, lost and left with no foods to eat considering most people tell you to eliminate things that have been ingrained in our everyday diet.
7) Sleep – Getting quality sleep is important for all of us but most of the time we can’t help but stay up late especially when our work requires it. Having a good night’s sleep is likely just as or even more important as exercising regularly and equally important as having a healthy diet. No amount of skincare can work if you aren't getting enough sleep. Sleep is life!
Sleep deprivation can increase the amount of inflammation in our bodies in another way. At night as we sleep, our bodies undergo changes that make for an environment that supports inflammation. When we get adequate sleep, however, this inflammatory state supports the immune system by enhancing the body’s ability to form an initial and long-term immune response. However, when we’re chronically sleep-deprived, the inflammatory state becomes unbalanced and only serves to impede immune function. This is sometimes why we become sick when we've been lacking sleep or why lack of sleep can cause acne.
“Sleep is important for all of the body’s systems and their functioning,” says Judith Hellman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “As far as the skin is concerned, lack of sleep causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released, which in turn encourages inflammation in the skin, causing flare-ups in conditions like acne, psoriasis, and even eczema.”
10) Stress – Cramming for an exam the following day or procrastinating for your work project can be a daunting and stressful thing, possibly leading to acne development.
Stress is more likely a feeling of emotional or physical tension and it comes from any event or thought that makes you feel angry, frustrated or even nervous. It also causes our adrenal glands to spike up stress hormones known as cortisol as well as overproduce androgen hormones that cause us to go through a heightened state of awareness.
Actually, stress leads to trigger breakouts and worsen our already existing acne scars by increasing testosterone hormones or cortisol hormones, leading to inflammation. We often experience stress acne when we are at our most stressful moments. “Apart from these biological drivers of stress-related acne”, Kimball says “feeling frazzled can also cause people to sleep poorly, consume less-healthy foods, and break away from their usual skin-care routines — all of which could further promote acne breakouts.”
Acne can really be a frustrating experience or thing to go through, but don’t fret or despair – acne is never ever permanent. Remember, you are still beautiful, with or without acne. Your skin does not define who you really are.