When you’re suffering from acne, you just want to know one thing: “How do I get rid of it?” However, taking the time to learn exactly what acne is will help you find the right solution. Once you understand the real causes of acne, you’ll be in a much better position to sort through all the different remedies and spot “quack medicine” for what it is.
Many people blame hormones and natural body oils for causing acne. In fact, it’s much more complicated than that. Acne is caused by a combination of clogged pores, bacteria, hormones, and an aggressive immune system.
You probably know that your skin is covered with tiny openings called hair follicles, or pores. Attached to each pore are glands that produce a natural oil called sebum. The pores are lined with specialized skin cells called keratinocytes. These cells have a limited life span and eventually slough off after they die. Usually they’re flushed out by the sebum and get rinsed off the next time you take a shower. However, sometimes these follicular cells react abnormally to the hormones your body produces, mostly male hormones called androgens. Men and women naturally produce androgens from the time they it puberty, which is why children usually aren’t plagued with acne until they become teenagers.
The cells in your pores react to these hormones by becoming thick and sticky. The sticky dead cells form a plug that blocks the pore, trapping the sebum oil. Initially this results in noninflammatory acne, otherwise known as whiteheads and blackheads.
Tender red acne forms mostly as a result of a bacterium called P. acnes. This bacterium thrives in dark, warm, oily places where it’s exposed to little oxygen–which perfectly describes your pores! But the problem really begins with your immune system, which sees P. acnes as a serious threat and launches a full-scale attack. P. acnes is pretty harmless, so this response is a bit like using dynamite to kill a mouse. This causes the acne to become even more sensitive, inflamed, and prone to scarring.
Although diet, stress, and other factors may not be a direct cause of acne, many experts now agree that they definitely play a role. For example, recent studies confirmed that stress can increase the production of androgen hormones, which in turn encourages keratocyne cells to clump together and plug your pores.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for acne. However, it can be controlled. By keeping track of your acne triggers and using an appropriate skin regimen, you’ll rid yourself of those annoying pimples and enjoy clear skin again.