What are the Causes Of Acne Breakouts?

A number of issues play a role in the causes of acne.

The main dilemma is the irregular growth of skin cells within the hair follicles, resulting in the development of whiteheads or blackheads.

The whiteheads restrict the natural regular movement of the skin cells, the body’s natural oil, called sebum, and hair. This may eventually lead to the enlargement and rupture of the hair follicles, allowing spillage or leaks of the natural oil and dead skin onto the skin (epidermis).

It may start off as a whitehead, develop into a blackhead and possibly progress into swelling and redness. Therefore it becomes inflamed.

Causes Of Acne Breakouts

1. Excess Natural Oil (Sebum):

The oil glands, called the sebaceous glands, become stimulated by increased hormones to produce more natural oil, known as sebum.

Acne starts in teenagers as a result of increased hormone production. Both male and female produce a much higher level of androgens during puberty. Testes in men and ovaries in women.

2. Skin Pores and Blockages:

Excess sebum blocks the openings to hair follicles, particularly those on the face, chest, neck and back. Bacteria will then grow in these clogged up follicles. When the pores are blocked, the excess oil becomes trapped within the skin pores. The pores are blocked by skin cells that have been shed from the lining of the skin pore and have bunched together.

3. Skin Bacteria:

Propionbacterium acnes (P.acnes) is the normal part of the skin surface that keeps the skin protected from harmful bacteria. Nevertheless, the bacteria P. acnes may grow in a blocked pore and produce chemicals. This alters the oil composition, becomes infectious, more irritable to the skin and cause inflammation.

4. Inflammation:

Redness, swelling, warmth and discomfort all occur when there is an inflamed skin. This is when the body’s immune system is reacting in order to get rid of any foreign substances. Either its own produced irritating compounds or bacteria.

5. The Hair Follicle Anatomy:

Hair follicles can be found almost all over the body and skin apart from the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands.

Within the hair follicle, hair stretches up from the dermis, deeper layer of the epidermis, and is released through the pore.

Near the skin surface, within the dermis, the oil glands (sebaceous glands) are able to enter the hair follicles. This is where, it is able to empty its sebum. This is done at a comparatively constant and continuous rate.

The job of sebum is to lubricate the skin and provide a protective or defensive barrier and prevent dry skin.

The back, chest and face host a high number of sebaceous glands and acne tends to occur in these same areas.

What are the additional Causes of ‘Acne’?

Hormones : Androgens and Estrogens:

Particular hormones like androgens are additional factors in the causes of acne.

The androgens are male hormones that are found in both males and females but they are greater in males.

Androgens do 2 things:

  1. Enlarge the oil glands, know as the sebaceous glands, in the skin.
  2. Cause the oil glands to produce excess natural oil know as sebum.

The excess production of sebum exacerbates the plug formation and helps serve as more “fuel” for the bacteria.

Androgens increase at the age of puberty, and this explains why teenagers develop deeper voices and facial hair for example. This surge in androgens does contributes to the causes of acne in teenagers.

On the other hand, estrogens, the female hormones, may help improve acne in females. Women’s regular monthly menstrual cycle may be as a result of adjustments in the levels of estrogen in the female body.

This may explain why acne in females get worse and then get better as she goes through her monthly cycle.

A health practitioner may suggest an acne remedy with birth control pills or oral contraceptives, that contains the estrogens.

1. Stress and Acne:

This is psychological. Stress triggers the body to enter into survival mode, the body’s own defence mechanism, by pumping adrenaline, which increases the sensory faculties.

High levels of stress with increased hormones may trigger the overproduction of the adrenal glands causing even greater enlargement of the oil glands and therefore excess oil production.

A study conducted by researchers found that students who experienced increased stress during exams also had the greatest increase in acne severity.

2. Genetics:

Where this skin disorder runs in the family the tendency for it to develop increases.

On the other hand, there are many individuals, born of clear skinned parents, with acne.

Therefore, there are many other factors and causes of acne that contribute to the development of acne besides just family history.

3. Acne and Diet:

Does diet have an underlying link to the causes of acne?

Dairy products like cow’s milk and a high-glycemic-load diet have been associated with influencing inflammatory and hormonal factors, hence, worsening the severity, prevalence and causes of acne.

Researchers have been able to look at the link between adolescent skin disorders and diet – The Teenage Anti-Acne Diet.

After 3 months the higher protein–low glycemic-index diet, in comparison to the diet of highly processed foods, was found to :

  1. Minimize acne by more than 50%.
  2. Lower the insulin levels, so that the acne hormonal imbalances where in control.
  3. Enhance a positive effect on confidence, self-esteem, overall mood and energy levels.
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