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Acne Causes and Risk Factors

Acne vulgaris or commonly called Acne is a skin disorder characterized by pimples on the face, chest, or back. It usually occurs due to the hormonal changes in adolescence or when young women about to start their menstrual cycle.

These hormones bring some changes in the body appearance. Some men and women are sensitive to testosterone (a vital sex hormone) which causes the sebaceous glands (oil glands) which located under the skin’s surface to produce more oily material called sebum. When excess sebum combines with dead skin cells, the pores become plugged and causing the form of pimples. There are 6 types of pimples:

  • Whiteheads
    Whiteheads form when a pore is completely blocked, entrapping sebum (oil), bacteria and dead skin cells. Since the pores completely blocked, the air unable to reach the follicle, causing a white appearance on the surface. Whiteheads is usually disappears within shorten life cycle than blackheads.
  • Blackheads
    Blackheads form when a pore is only partially blocked, allowing some trapped sebum and dead skin cells to gradually appear to the surface. However, blackheads are not caused by dirt, it from certain skin pigments in the cells of the pores. Blackheads tend to be more stable and take much longer times to clear than whiteheads.
  • Papules
    Papules are the least dangerous types of pimples. They are small, firm conical bumps that do not contain any pus. They are painless, but they often become tender and irritated if touched.
  • Pustules
    Pustules are similar to whiteheads but they are inflamed and appear as a red circle with a white or yellow center.
  • Nodules
    Nodules are large, solid pimples under the skin’s surface. It can be very painful and sometimes can last for months.
  • Cysts
    Cysts are similar to nodules but they are pus-filled and described as having a diameter of 5mm. They can be painful too. Scarring is common with this form of pimple. Squeezing cysts pimples may cause infection and inflammation that will last longer than if you had left it alone.

Acne affects nearly 17 million people in the United States. While acne can develop at any age, but it usually starts at puberty period and worsens during adolescence. Nearly 85 percent of people develop acne between ages 12-25 years. More than 20 percent of women experience mild acne.

Acne Causes and Risk Factors

The exact causes of acne is unknown, however experts believe that the main cause of acne is the increased levels of androgen (a type of hormone). Androgen levels increase in which a person becomes a teenager. An increased level of androgen makes the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.

Risk factors for Acne

  • Hormonal changes
    Since acne is caused by hormonal changes. The following individuals are at most risk of getting acne: 

    • Teenage boys and girls
    • Women who are pregnant
    • Young women during menstrual period
  • Family history
    Individuals with a family history of acne have greater risk of getting acne.
  • Diet
    Many studies have revealed that eating too much of refined foods increase the risk of developing acne.
  • Cosmetics
    Some cosmetic products may contain Lanoline which is a fatty acid extracted from sheep’s wool and used in lotions as a skin soothing and smoothing agent. This substance can clog the skin pores. If the pore is blocked, a whitehead is formed.
  • Environment
    People who live in the humid areas are more prone to get severe type of acne which clogs the pores and produces more sebum.
  • Sunlight
    Exposure to sunlight is a major cause of skin cancer and acne complications.
  • Stress
    Several studies have shown that teenagers under the high level of stress were 23% more likely to develop acne than those who don’t have stress. Stress enlarges the sebaceous glands and triggers the production of oil. As a result, sebum is unable to pop out and ruptures the lining of hair follicle.
  • Drugs or Medications
    There are certain drugs that produce and aggravate acne, including antibiotics, anabolic steroids, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and oral contraceptives.