Causes of acne and how to treat it



What causes acne?

Acne is an extremely common condition and understanding acne can be difficult. Almost 80% of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 11 and 30 have pimple outbreaks at some point. Acne tends to go away by the time most people reach their thirties; however, some people in their forties and fifties continue to have acne skin problems. People of all races and ages face skin problems.


Understanding acne skin

Acne results from the action of hormones and other substances on the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands) and hair follicles. These lead to plugged pores and outbreaks of lesions known as pimples. Pimples usually occur on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders.

The exact cause of acne is unknown. According to doctors, there are a few factors involved. One important factor is an increase in the male sex hormones called androgens. These increase in both boys and girls during puberty and cause the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands) to enlarge and make more sebum, which is an oily substance.

Understanding acne is important, because acne affects what is known as the pilosebaceous units (PSUs). These are found over most of the body – the face, upper back, and chest. PSUs are made up of a sebaceous gland connected to a canal, called a follicle, which contains a fine hair. The sebaceous glands make an oily substance called sebum that normally empties onto the skin surface through an opening in the follicle known as a pore. Cells called keratinocytes line the follicle.

The hair, sebum, and keratinocytes that fill the narrow follicle may form a plug, which is an early sign of acne. This plug prevents sebum from reaching the surface of the skin through a pore. The mixture of oil and cells creates an environment which allows bacteria that normally live on the skin, Propionibacterium acnes, to grow in the plugged follicles. These bacteria produce chemicals and enzymes which cause inflammation. When the wall of the plugged follicle breaks down, it spills everything into the nearby skin — sebum, shed skin cells, and bacteria — which then leads to pimples.

Use acne treatment products to reduce irritation and leave your skin feeling soft and beautiful.



  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Conditions. Acne. NIH Publication No. 15-4998.
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    the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;49(1):S1-S37.
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    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
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Written by Lauren Espach
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