what causes acne


Your skin has tiny holes called pores that can become blocked by oil, bacteria, dead skin cells, and dirt. When this occurs, you may develop a pimple or “zit.” If your skin is repeatedly affected by this condition, you may have acne.

Acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. Although acne isn’t a life-threatening condition, it can be painful, particularly when it’s severe. It can also cause emotional distress.

Acne that appears on your face can affect your self-esteem and, over time, may cause permanent physical scarring.

There are many effective treatments for acne that reduce both the number of pimples you get and your chance of scarring.

What are the symptoms of acne?

Acne can be found almost anywhere on your body. It most commonly develops on your face, back, neck, chest, and shoulders.

If you have acne, you’ll typically notice pimples that are white or black. Both blackheads and whiteheads are known as comedones.

Blackheads open at the surface of your skin, giving them a black appearance because of oxygen in the air. Whiteheads are closed just under the surface of your skin, giving them a white appearance.

While whiteheads and blackheads are the most common lesions seen in acne, other types can also occur. Inflammatory lesions are more likely to cause scarring of your skin. These include:

What are the symptoms of acne
What are the symptoms of acne
  • Papules are small, red, raised bumps caused by inflamed or infected hair follicles.
  • Pustules are small red pimples that have pus at their tips.
  • Nodules are solid, often painful lumps beneath the surface of your skin.
  • Cysts are large lumps found beneath your skin that contain pus and are usually painful.

What causes acne?

Acne occurs when the pores of your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria.

Each pore of your skin is the opening to a follicle. The follicle is made up of a hair and a sebaceous (oil) gland.

The oil gland releases sebum (oil), which travels up the hair, out of the pore, and onto your skin. The sebum keeps your skin lubricated and soft.

One or more problems in this lubrication process can cause acne. It can occur when:

  • too much oil is produced by your follicles
  • dead skin cells accumulate in your pores
  • bacteria build up in your pores

These problems contribute to the development of pimples. A pimple appears when bacteria grows in a clogged pore and the oil is unable to escape.

What are the risk factors for developing acne?

Let’s look at some factors for the occurrence of acne:

Can shaving cause acne?

can shaving cause acne
can shaving cause acne

You should know that shaving can cause acne:

  • Dirty/Old Razor Blades.

Old razor blades can harbor bacteria, which can then make their way into your skin when you drag your blade across your face. Be sure to swap out your razor every five shaves—10 is the absolute max.

  • Shaving Products.

Some shaving creams and gels can irritate the skin, causing swelling and inflammation that turns into a pimple. To reduce breakouts, look for skin care products that are designed for men and are free of fragrances and dyes.

  • Rinsing Your Face with Hot Water.

After you’ve finished shaving, you need to close your pores to prevent dirt and debris from getting in there and causing acne. Rinsing with cold water after your shave will do the trick.


Replace Blades Regularly. If you have a difficult time remembering to buy more razor blades, consider getting a subscription.

Wash Your Razor Properly. Rinse your razor after every stroke to remove the debris and ensure a clean shave. After you’re finished, run the blade with hot water to sterilize it.

Use Pre-Shave Oil. Using a small amount of pre-shave oil is key to achieving the perfect shave. Be sure to choose a pre-shave oil with high-quality ingredients and you’ll notice a huge difference in the way your razor blade glides effortlessly over your skin. Don’t forget to follow up with a men’s aftershave containing skin-soothing ingredients.

Can soy cause acne?

can soy cause acne
can soy cause acne

Here are the 3 types of acne caused by soy:

  • The first is hormonal acne. Tofu, soy milk, soy protein. Processed soy is plentiful because it’s easily GMO’d and companies can make plenty of it for cheap. It makes an attractive filler agent for both food companies and cosmetic companies because of that feature- it’s a cheap filler agent. This matters quite a bit, because it’s literally everywhere. Check the nutrition labels and you’ll find that soy, soybean oil, and soy proteins are inside everything from lotion, makeup, dog food, protein bars, salad dressings, and other packaged foods. When we eat soy frequently (meaning more than once per week) the phytoestrogens hijack our bodies’ natural estrogen receptors, blocking them from doing their job. In excess, this can lead to estrogen dominance and hormonal acne.
  • The second way soy causes acne is via digestive disturbance. This has to do with the fact that it is generally so chemically manipulated  (think “textured soy protein” or “soy protein isolate”). These are highly processed and can upset the body because they are not broken down as easily, or they create inflammation in the GI tract due to unnatural structures being introduced. We recommend sticking to edamame versus the processed stuff, it’s in its natural state and hasn’t been depleted of its nutrients. Processed foods equal inflammation.
  • The third and most common way that soy causes acne is topically. Like we mentioned earlier, soy is a popular filler agent, especially in “vegan skincare’, “organic skincare” and “natural” beauty products. Please remember that natural and “clean beauty” mean absolutely nothing when it comes to acne. Pore cloggers like coconut oil, soy and wheat extract, and even healthy fats like avocado oil are still pore clogging when applied topically. Many clean beauty brands are loaded with soy and people experience breakouts from these all the time.

Can sunscreen cause acne?

can sunscreen cause acne
can sunscreen cause acne

Yes, sunscreen can clog pores, which then leads to blemishes. These breakouts can happen under certain conditions, or a combination of all three:

1. If the sunscreen has a rich texture – meaning that it is usually oilier on the skin

2. If your skin is exposed to pollution and dust

3. If you are in a tropical area, where humidity, sweat and pollution are combined

It’s recommended that you use the right suncare products for your skin type. For those who are acne-prone, using a sunscreen that is not formulated for oily and/or sensitive skin may clog pores and result in breakouts. Choosing the right formula, however, will reduce this risk.

Apply sunscreen about 15-20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply at least every 3 hours. Look for sunscreen that is very light in texture (especially if you have oily skin). For acne-prone skin, look for sunscreen that contains ingredients that treat acne or sebum and ingredients such as zinc or zinc oxide.

Does sweating cause acne?

does sweating cause acne
does sweating cause acne

First of all, not everything that looks like acne is acne. There are several conditions that mimic acne. One of these is pityrosporum folliculitis, a yeast infection of the follicles. If your acne is itchy and comes and goes, it may be this type of folliculitis. Yeast thrives in warm, wet places, so when you sweat a lot, you are creating a great environment for this acne imposter.

Second, when you sweat, you usually rub it off, either with your hand or a towel creating friction on your skin. Friction is a no-no for acne. It causes what is known as acne mechanica. The friction causes you to generate and slough even more dead skin cells leading to more and larger plugs.

Third, and most intriguing, the bacteria that live on our skin and contribute to acne, require nutrients, most of which are in our dead skin cells and our skin oil. One of these sets of nutrients are the B vitamins, including biotin and thiamin, which are present in sweat. The concentrations of these vitamins increase in our sweat with the rate of sweat production. When you sweat more, as you do during vigorous exercise, you are concentrating those B vitamins – in essence feeding your p. acnes bacteria a perfectly tailored vitamin pill.

Birth control cause acne?

birth control cause acne
birth control cause acne

Taking birth control pills, or other forms of hormonal birth control decrease hormonal fluctuations, delivering a steady dose of hormones throughout the month. Also, birth control pills contain both estrogen and progesterone, which lower the number of androgens in a woman’s body, resulting in less sebum, and less acne.

It may take a few months after starting birth control pills to see any noticeable decrease in acne. Also, it is common for many women to experience an initial flare-up of acne after starting birth control, but it should eventually go away. The reason it takes a while for acne to go away after starting birth control pills is that it can take the body a few months to get used to the new hormones.

Does alcohol cause acne?

does alcohol cause acne
does alcohol cause acne

While there is very little evidence to show that drinking alcohol causes acne, there are some definite connections:

  • Drinking regularly will depress your immune system and it is your immune system which helps keep the acne bacteria under control. A weakened immune system will make it easier for bacteria to build up in your skin pores.
  • Alcohol will change your hormone levels and one direct cause of acne is an imbalance in testosterone or estrogen levels.
  • People often drink to help deal with stress, stress is also likely to affect your hormones so the combination of two could lead to problems and have an adverse effect on your skin.
  • It is a well-known fact that alcohol leads to liver damage. The liver is probably the most important organ involved in maintaining clear skin. It regulates a number of hormones, helps maintain steady blood sugar levels and also removes toxins from your body. Anything that reduces liver functionality is likely to be bad for your skin.
  • Alcohol can cause candida to overgrow. Candida is a fungus that is found in high yeast and sugary products (beer, cocktails and mixed drinks). When it overgrows it can result in outbreaks on the skin, whilst it isn’t strictly speaking acne it looks very similar.
  • Alcohol lowers your body’s water content and water is central to removing inflammatory toxins. These inflammatory toxins can result in aggravated acne. Alcohol will also shrink skin pores and make them more likely to clog.

Does greek yogurt cause acne?

does greek yogurt cause acne
does greek yogurt cause acne

The risk of acne varies according to the type of dairy product consumed. Each additional serving of whole milk and skimmed milk increasing the risk of acne by 13% and 26% respectively.

But no such relationship was seen between risk of acne and yogurt or cheese intake.

The proteins found in milk and dairy products increase the levels of a hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which in turn stimulates the sebaceous glands to make more sebum – and so the development of acne.

Milk and dairy products also contain sex hormone derivatives such as oestrogen, progesterone and androgen, that can lead to the development of acne.

The lack of a relationship between yogurt/cheese and acne may be due to the fermentation process. Fermentation with probiotic bacteria may reduce IGF-1 levels of the dairy food as well as other components of milk that are associated with acne development.

Can thyroid problems cause acne?

can thyroid problems cause acne
can thyroid problems cause acne

Hormone imbalance is perhaps the greatest contributor of acne. The thyroid is an integral component of hormone production, regulation, and function meaning that it plays an important role in the occurrence of acne and many other conditions. 

Many assume that acne breakouts are caused only by imbalances of estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone. This is not surprising as fluctuations of these hormones is the predominant cause of acne during puberty. However, in adults, the cause of acne more than likely involves thyroid dysfunction or deficiency.

The thyroid is an essential component of health and exerts its influence through the production of hormones. Thyroid hormones influence numerous functions including metabolism, conversion of food into energy, cellular and tissue regeneration, sleep, and more. Thyroid dysfunction can result in a wide array of symptoms, specifically regarding hormone balance. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that inhibited thyroid function can result in skin conditions such as acne.

Can seasonal allergies cause acne?

can seasonal allergies cause acne
can seasonal allergies cause acne

Food allergy is one of the causes of acne, and the worse acne is, the greater the likelihood of food allergies. Eating foods that the body is allergic to leads to a permanent toxic reaction …

How can acne be prevented?

It’s difficult to prevent acne. But you can take steps at home to help prevent acne after treatment. These steps include:

  • washing your face twice a day with an oil-free cleanser
  • using an over-the-counter acne cream to remove excess oil
  • avoiding makeup that contains oil
  • removing makeup and cleaning your skin thoroughly before bed
  • showering after exercising
  • avoiding tight-fitting clothing
  • eating a healthy diet with minimal refined sugars
  • reducing stress