Causes of Acne

If you look up causes of acne on medical sites or ask your doctor, you’ll probably get the standard answer about pores clogged with dead skin cells, excess sebum production and P. acnes bacteria on skin. It is an easy answer.  Dead skin cells within a follicle fail to shed properly, creating a blockage.  When the opening becomes blocked, sebum cannot escape to the surface of the skin, creating a plug in the pore that is either a blackhead or white head, depending on whether the plug is open to the air or closed.  Infection by P. acnes within the blocked follicle causes inflamed, red acne. 

This is all very true, but it is not all there is to it.  The presence or absence of acne has a lot to do with the balance of processes in our bodies.  It is well known that hormonal changes and imbalances can cause acne.  Inflammation in the body due to ingestion of inflammatory foods and drugs is another cause. Also, oxidative stress on the skin intensified by a lack of antioxidants promotes acne. Finally, blood sugar spikes and the resultant spikes in blood insulin can be a factor in the occurrence of acne.


Skincare Routine to Clear Acne

Acne Cleanser

Given that acne is a skin problem, it makes sense that good skin care on the surface is important in controlling acne.  Good hygiene is certainly important.  Wash your face once or twice a day with a good acne cleanser, or any gentle cleanser. Do not use soap. Soap has a very low ph and is harsh on skin.  It destroys the protective acid barrier on the skin and makes skin dry, flaky, and vulnerable. A good acne cleanser will have a pH close 5.5, the natural ph of skin. 


Makeup and Acne

Avoiding makeup may be wise if you struggle with acne because it often clogs pores and irritates skin. If you must wear it, look for a quality mineral makeup and always remove it before bed.  If you cover up a pimple, it may prolong the length of time it takes to heal, but there are some medicated makeup products with salicylic acid that will spot treat and cover up blemishes.


Remove Irritants that Trigger Acne

Try to avoid touching your face.  When you do touch it, wash your hands immediately before.  After washing your face, instead of rubbing it dry, gently pat it dry with a separate face towel; hand towels get dirty too fast.  Be aware of anything touching your face and avoid it as much as possible. This includes things like your hair, phone, coat collar, even your pillow case. Some find that washing your pillowcase twice a week reduces acne breakouts.


Reduce Stress to Clear Acne

This aspect of acne care is often disregarded because it seems too simple.  But, simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference.  Stress is typically a trigger for acne in people with acne prone skin, or other skin conditions for that matter.  Finding ways to manage stress is important for skin health and overall health. Find and stick to an exercise program that incorporates some sort of exercise into your daily, or at least weekly, routine.  Try walking, running, swimming, yoga or simply riding your bike to work or school instead of driving. 


Diet to Clear Acne

Diet really is part of the story when it comes to acne, no matter what your dermatologist says. There is a correlation between acne and poor nutrition, and improving your diet just may improve your skin.

Even diets that are generally considered healthy could be triggering acne breakouts. Diets for acne prevention resemble those for other chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. The are low in saturated fat, sugar, and processed foods, and high in omega 3 fats, fiber and whole foods.


Taking control of acne really does involve a whole body approach.  Sure, you can go to the dermatologist and load up on antibiotics or other medications to clear acne right up (sometimes), but this is not the only way or the best way to treat acne. These treatments are really treating the symptom, not the root causes of acne. Some severe acne cases may need medication, but this should be in addition to other, big picture acne care solutions.  Most mild and moderate acne cases can be managed with a proper skin care routine, stress management, and proper diet.