everything you need to know about what causes acne

If you’ve found your way here, you’re probably, as I once was, one of the unfortunate souls affected by acne. It’s also possible that you’ve visited several doctors and tried multiple treatments, only to be met with disappointment.

I suffered from acne for seven years. Along the way, I learned a number of things - some through experience, and others via extensive research - that allowed me to cure myself of the condition and to help several others like me. This post starts at the root of the problem: why do we get acne in the first place.

Woman with acne on her face

Acne can be caused by any number of things. As a hapless victim of wonky genetics, I can fully attest to those pre-birth gifts from your folks having a major role to play in how our skin might turn out. Chemical messengers called hormones play a vital role in the normal functioning of our body, but can sometimes go overboard and cause breakouts. Stress is a well-known foe of our heath and our skin and it’s also no secret that our diets also have a lot to do with how we look. In my experience though, some people’s skin expresses greater sensitivity to diet than that of others. In my case for example, dietary changes never affected my skin for better or for worse. I do however, know people who are extremely sensitive to certain foods and can’t eat them without breaking out: sugar and processed foods, being key culprits.

Air pollution and certain drugs, like steroids and lithium, can also cause breakouts, but two other factors are worthy of a more detailed examination, primarily because they’re often overlooked. The first is sleep. It’s while we slumber that our body goes into repair mode. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, on-going sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. It also plays a significant role in how our skin looks and feels. While the most obvious cosmetic marker of a lack of sleep is periorbital puffiness, or bags under the eyes, lack of sleep also messes with our hormones and can result in increased stress levels in our body, and lead to breakouts. While the exact amount of sleep required varies from individual to individual, most people should aim to get at least six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.

The second factor is skincare. Big surprise folks, but just like what you put on your body has an impact on your internal health, what you put on your skin also has an impact on its health. A lot of people assume that what cleanser they use is not of importance since it’s meant to be rinsed off. Nothing however, could be farther from the truth. Using a cleanser that is not pH balanced disrupts the metabolism of our skin, and using one that’s harsh results in irritation and damage that builds up over time and can lead to several problems including sensitised skin, and premature ageing. Forgetting to moisturise after you cleanse is also not a good idea - even if your skin is oily and prone to acne - as I’ve discussed at length in another post. It’s not wise to skip sunscreen either, as UV doesn’t only make you age quicker and increase your risk for skin cancer, it can also make our skin break out and worsen the marks and scars left behind after pimples go away.

Your skincare is also of great significance for another reason: regardless of the internal or external causes of acne, in a significant number of cases, simply using just the right skincare can make a massive difference to your breakouts, without you having to take any medications, all of which come with a protracted list of side-effects. Bonus? It’s also the one thing that’s completely under your control. So tuned for posts on my experience with medications and the skincare routine I currently have that keeps my acne away!