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What Causes Acne?

Though acne is common, acne lesions often result when acne is left untreated. Misconceptions about the causes of acne usually result in ineffective or damaging “treatments.”

Though many people believe acne is caused by heredity, certain foods, dirt, or stress, acne (acne vulgaris) is simply the result of naturally occurring oils (sebum) produced by the sebaceous glands at the base of hair follicles. Though acne can affect people of any age, these glands become more active when we reach puberty. Clogged pores, most often on the face, chest and back, allow a build-up of sebum which then stimulates normally occurring harmless bacteria to multiply and inflame nearby skin cells.

The oil, when just under the surface, appears white; deeper in the skin it turns darker producing a “blackhead.” Still deeper, it forms a nodule or cyst. Once inflammation sets in, these blackheads and whiteheads turn into small red papules or yellowish-white pustules which, if squeezed, allow infection to spread. The deeper cysts, when inflamed, become obvious as large red bumps.

A facial rash called rosacea can develop in adults (mostly women) over the age of thirty—even those who never experience acne as a teenager. Red patches form, and in some cases inflammation causes pimple-like bumps. Unlike acne, these bumps are not caused by blocked pores and will not pop when squeezed.


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