Many people know that excess oil and clogged pores are the most direct causes of acne outbreaks and that the hormonal changes of adolescence are the most common risk factors. What’s not well known are the additional risk factors that can either cause or exacerbate new acne lesions. The best acne prevention and skin care regimen require a holistic and nuanced picture of acne’s contributing factors. For some, it may also involve recognizing that genetic factors have made them especially vulnerable to severe outbreaks and that the help of prescription-strength acne treatment is needed to manage their acne.
Whether you’re looking to understand or manage acne, here are some less common and commonly misunderstood causes of acne that you should know about.
Lifestyle and Dietary Choices
Many people also know that certain lifestyle and dietary choices may affect the occurrence and severity of acne outbreaks. While there are a whole host of foods that are better or worse for acne, the number one goal is to reduce your sugar intake. High-sugar foods stimulate insulin production which then triggers androgen hormones and increased sebum oil production. Keep in mind that it’s not necessarily the total amount of sugar that you consume, so much as your body’s ability to regulate the sugar levels in your blood. Everybody is different and a low-sugar diet may not prevent acne on its own.
Your sebaceous glands are constantly searching for balance between skin that is too dry to adequately protect you and skin that is too oily to be comfortable and which can also lead to acne outbreaks. It’s easier for your body to find this balance when the hormone levels that affect sebaceous glands and sebum production are more consistent through a healthy, low-sugar diet. Another strategy is to seek out foods known to reduce inflammation, which can make it more difficult to clog pores. By interfering with both blood sugar levels and the body’s inflammatory response, stress is also associated with more frequent acne outbreaks.
The Role of Bacterial Infections in Acne Outbreaks
When excess oil clogs a pore, it inevitably traps bacteria in the pore. This creates an environment in which the bacteria can thrive to the point of triggering an immune response. Many types of bacteria that are already part of skin’s biome can create this localized infection. C. acnes is one of the most common types of bacteria, but there are others. There also good and bad strains of the acne bacteria itself.
While dirt and grime that gets rubbed into the pores of the skin can certainly exacerbate aggravate acne, it’s the clogged pores that make it difficult-to-impossible to prevent acne for any length of time, no matter how clean you keep the area. An antibacterial ointment may help an acne lesion heal but is rarely enough to prevent future acne outbreaks. Especially if aggravated, popped, or left untreated, acne pimples can develop a secondary infection caused by staph bacteria.
Acne Mechanica and Excessive Cleaning
This type of acne occurs when your skin repeatedly rubs against an uncomfortable fabric or other surface. Athletes may struggle this type of acne, as well as people who sit for long periods of the day. If you notice acne in a spot where an accessory or article of clothing tends to rub, there’s a good chance this is what’s going on. That said, skin irritants can also be something of a contributing factor with other types of acne. Sebum, your body’s natural oil secretion, helps protect our skin against mild cuts and abrasions. Irritated skin produces more oil. This includes taking too many showers or trying to scrub the affected area too hard when cleaning. This applies to traditional exfoliating treatments as well. There are special liquid exfoliators that can help manage acne.
Genetic and Medical Causes of Acne Outbreaks
An underlying medical condition may be causing acne outbreaks by interfering with the body’s hormone levels. Any time you experience additional medical symptoms, along with acne or skin rash, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Some acne-like pimples are actually a different skin condition altogether, as may be the case with rosacea. Some people suffer from types of severe acne that can be difficult to treat and manage. This includes pyoderma faciale, acne fulminans and acne conglobata.
Most people get acne during their teenage years and, to a lesser extent, throughout their lives. However, acne risk exists along a spectrum. Some people will hardly get acne at all, while others will struggle with severe acne for much of their lives. If the usual home remedies aren’t doing the trick, schedule an appointment for a consultation with your dermatologist and develop the best acne treatment plan for you.