Struggling with acne isn’t fun. Acne – a chronic, inflammatory skin condition – causes unsightly spots and pimples to form on the skin’s surface.
These blemishes occur most frequently on the face, but they can also form on the shoulders, back, neck, chest, and upper arms. There are several types of acne triggered by a variety of factors, and each type can be more or less difficult to treat.
If you’re battling acne woes, read through this guide to determine the source of your condition so you can learn how to treat it best and recover faster.
Causes of Acne
Acne is the result of hair follicles that become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. The follicle wall may bulge and produce a whitehead. In other cases, the plug may be open to the surface, causing it to darken and form a blackhead.
Pimples are raised red spots that develop when blocked hair follicles become inflamed or infected with bacteria. Although the direct cause of acne symptoms is clear, how these pores become clogged is not quite as simple.
Factors that Contribute to Acne
Assuming that you’re washing your face regularly and maintaining a good skincare routine, it can be incredibly infuriating to deal with stubborn acne that won’t go away.
If that’s the case, consider whether or not the following factors are causing your troubles:
1) Hormonal Changes
Acne is commonly triggered by changes in hormone levels, which explains why so many women experience it during puberty and pregnancy. Androgens are hormones that cause the sebaceous glands in the skin to enlarge, thereby producing more sebum (oil).
The skin has androgen-receptor cells, and when a hormonal spike occurs in the blood level, it can lead to excessive oil production. The skin cells then become sticky, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.
It’s important to note that hormones can cause acne at any stage in life for people with highly sensitive androgen receptors.
Although the correlation between stress and acne has been well-documented, the exact causation between the two has not been fully proven.
Theory suggests that higher stress levels stimulate the adrenal glands, which then pump out excessive hormones – such as cortisol and androgens – leading to the type of acne listed above.
Another theory purports that stress interferes with thyroid functioning, and low levels of the thyroid hormone make the skin more vulnerable to inflammation.
Being stressed out can lead to bad eating habits, and a poor diet can also trigger acne, compounding on the problem.
High-glycemic foods such as white bread, processed cereals, potato chips, etc. are broken down quickly by the body, resulting in an insulin spike, raised blood sugar levels, hormonal fluctuations, and inflammation.
4) Family History
If someone in your family experienced acne, you’re more likely to develop it as well. Genes play a role in acne because they can influence how sensitive you are to hormones, meaning similar levels of androgens have a different effect on healthy versus acne-prone skin.
The acne-prone skin will produce more sebum and grow skin cells at a higher rate. Genes also influence the strength of an inflammatory response to bacteria.
Your acne might not be the result of an underlying cause but, instead, have a superficial explanation. If you have sensitive skin, cosmetic products containing harsh ingredients might be contributing to breakouts.
Strong chemicals, drying agents, and fragrances can result in irritation and inflammation.
Tips to Treat Acne
For those struggling with persistent acne, here is a few suggestions skincare experts recommend trying outside of your regular skincare routine:
- Switch to non-comedogenic cosmetics;
- Take clear skin vitamins;
- Improve your diet with leafy greens;
- Drink more water to flush your system;
- Try an oral contraceptive to regulate hormones;
- Avoid medications containing corticosteroids, testosterone or lithium;
- Get more sleep;
- Minimize stress;
- Find a moisturizer with aloe vera or witch hazel (which have soothing, potentially anti-inflammatory properties).
If you’ve tried everything under the sun – and everything in the vanity cabinet – to alleviate your acne symptoms with no success, it may be time to see a doctor.
He or she can prescribe a stronger drug to help combat the inflammation either topically or internally. In older adults, sudden onset of acne could signal an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
Trust the advice of a medical professional who can give you the best course of action for your acne treatment.