Acne Triggers



What Causes Acne?

It is believed that several related factors are acne triggers. The exact cause is not known. An important acne trigger is an increase in the male sex hormones, called androgens. During puberty, these increase in both boys and girls. Androgens causes the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands) to enlarge and as a result, make more of an oily substance known as sebum.

Genetics may also play a role. People may inherit a tendency to develop skin problems from their parents. Certain drugs and greasy cosmetics are also acne triggers and can cause acne skin problems.


Acne Triggers that can cause acne to flare:

  • Changing hormone levels in adolescent girls and adult women 2 to 7 days before their menstrual period starts.
  • Oil from skin products (moisturizers or cosmetics). Choose products labelled non comedogenic (meaning they don’t promote the formation of closed pores). In general, lotions and oil-based products are more comedogenic than gel-based products and foundations containing silicone derivatives.
  • Pressure from sports helmets, equipment, backpacks, tight collars, or tight sports uniforms.
  • Environmental irritants, such as pollution and high humidity.
  • Squeezing, pinching or picking blemishes can lead to the development of scars or dark blotches.
  • Hard scrubbing of the skin can aggravate the inflammatory phase. Using strong soaps or rough scrub pads is not helpful and can actually make the problem worse.
  • Astringents are not recommended unless the skin is very oily, and then they should be used only on oily spots.


Due to little evidence that foods have any effect on skin related problem in most people, follow a diet that supports your overall good health. A good acne skin care regime involves cleansing correctly, using the correct acne treatment products, protecting your skin to retain moisture, and preventing environmental damage by using a sunscreen.



  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Conditions. NIH Publication No. 15-4998. Available from URL: Cited 23 February 2016.
  2. Gollnick H, Cunliffe W, Berson D, Drew B, Finlay A, Leyden JJ, et al. Management of Acne. A Report From the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;49(1):S1-S37.
  3. Thiboutot D, Gollnick H, Bettoli V, et al, of behalf of the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes, New Insights into the management of acne: An update from the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne Group. J Am Acad Dermatol 2009;60:S1-S50
  4. Magin P, Pond D, Smith W, Watson A. A systematic review of the evidence for ‘myths and misconceptions’ in acne management: diet, face-washing and sunlight. Family Practice 2005;22:62-70.
  5. Sykes NL, Webster GF. Acne. A Review of Optimum Treatment. Drugs 1994;48(1):59-70
  6. Goodman G. Cleansing and Moisturising in Acne Patients. Am J Clin Dermatol 2009;10 (1):1-6

Written by Lauren Espach
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