Acne can be caused by many factors. In effect, acne results from the blockage of skin pores due to a buildup of dead skin cells. This blockage causes the accumulation of skin oils, cells, pollutants and bacteria. Acne is usually seen on the face, but can also develop on the torso. A micromedo, which is basically an accumulation of keratin and sebum, is the first visible sign of an acne outbreak.
As this micromedo becomes bigger, it may form an open comedone (also known as blackhead) or a closed comedone (known as whitehead). In either condition, acne-causing bacteria which is known as Propionibacterium acnes proliferates at this site and causes inflammation, thus leading to significant lesions in the skin around the micromedo (or comedone). These lesions can be classified as papules, pustules or nodules, and are commonly referred to as zits, pimples or acne. This lesions are inflamed and may cause hyper pigmentation or scars.
This is the science of acne formation, but the cause of acne formation is hard to isolate. Many factors can contribute to the outbreak of acne, and part of the equation is an individual’s genetic make-up. Entire populations are free from acne, but it is increasingly prevalent in modern life.
The following are a few known causes of acne...
Genetic HistoryCertain people have a genetic predisposition to acne; if youngsters develop it, chances are good that their parent(s) also suffered from this condition at some point in their lives. Young siblings are often observed to have similar cases of acne. If a person has a genetic history of acne, they have an increased chance of having an early outbreak and of retaining lesions such as papules, pustules or nodules.
HormonesHormone levels have a direct relation with the occurrence and severity of acne. Puberty in males leads to the excess production of androgens, which causes the sebaceous glands under the skin to produce more oil. This is why acne primarily affects males in puberty. Besides the androgens testosterone, other hormones that have been linked to acne include: dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I). This last is significant because skin that is prone to acne has been observed to be insulin-resistant.
BacteriaPropionibacterium acnes is the anaerobic acne-causing bacteria. Increased bacterial activity in the pores is directly related to acne outbreaks.
Certain steroidsAnabolic steroid use has been linked to acne. Medication that contains barbiturates, androgens, lithium or halogens such as bromides, chlorides and iodides cause prevalent acne symptoms to exacerbate.
Certain chemical compoundsExposure to toxic dioxins (for example, Chlorinated dioxins) is linked to the outbreak of acne.
Dietary habitsWhile there has been no proven link between imbalanced dietary habits and the production of acne, many experts suggest that people suffering from acne should eat a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fibers.
Seafood and other iodine-rich foodSeafood contains iodine which can exacerbate already existing acne. While iodine from seafood is not known to cause outbreaks, people suffering from acne should avoid seafood and other foods high in iodine, as it can definitely make the symptoms more severe.
Simple carbohydratesAccording to recent trends in scientific study, there may be a link between acne and the excessive intake of refined sugars and simple carbohydrates. Since sugar and simple carbs are rapidly digested, they can cause an imbalance in the level of metabolic glucose in the body, causing the sebaceous glands to secrete excess sebum (natural oil) into the skin.
This theory can also explain why acne is widely prevalent in modern western societies and practically missing from those societies whose diets are not based on simple carbohydrates and refined sugars. While some theorists claim that the absence of acne in non-western worlds is primarily due to genetic factors, it has been observed that when people from those cultures shift to a western diet, they develop acne as well. However, the exact link between carbohydrate intake and acne is still not isolated or scientifically proven.
Deficiency of Vitamins A and EAccording to research, people who are newly affected by acne tend to have a deficiency of Vitamin A, as compared to the acne-free part of the population. Moreover, severe acne has been linked to a deficiency of vitamin E.
The above are a few of the known causes of acne. While some of these causes are not scientifically proven, they continue to guide researchers and treatment manufacturers in the quest for an acne cure, and have yielded varying degrees of success. As things are, acne is caused by too many factors in degrees that vary from individual to individual, and thus it is difficult to find an acne cure-all.