What Causes Acne?
Hormones - For Sure
One thing we do know for sure is that acne is in part a hormonal disease. We know this because acne symptoms start only after the body begins producing hormones during puberty. Also, we know that acne symptoms usually increase when male hormones that are present in both males and females, called androgens, are elevated. Increased levels of growth hormones may also affect acne. The most likely explanation why these hormones increase acne is because they increase the amount of skin oil that the skin produces, and more skin oil is strongly linked to more acne. More on hormones »
Inflammation – For Sure
Acne pimples are often red and sore, clear indicators of inflammation. As scientists continue exploring the skin, they are becoming more convinced that acne is at its core an inflammatory disease, and are finding inflammatory molecules at every step of acne development, from the very first stages of a clogged pore. We see clear signs of the inflammatory component of acne when we treat it as well. Most acne medications and treatments have specific anti-inflammatory properties that are thought to be part of their anti-acne action.
Evolutionary Biology – For Sure
Acne is a genetic disease. If one or both of your parents had acne, chances are heightened that you will as well. Why would evolution select for this trait? That is still unknown. More on genetics »
Stress – Very Likely
The mind and the body are connected. This is not Eastern philosophy, it is undisputable physical reality. Emotional stress affects our endocrine (hormone) system and immune system, which may leave the skin less able to stay clear. Physical stress, such as over-taxing the body through an overly demanding exercise schedule or not getting enough sleep, may also adversely affect our body’s endocrine and immune systems. More on stress »
Vitamin Deficiency – Perhaps
Inadequate levels of vitamins in the skin may prevent the skin from fighting inflammation effectively. When it comes to acne, research is zeroing in on antioxidants in particular, such as vitamins A, C, and E. Antioxidants are the always-viligant troops the body uses to combat inflammation. Many of us also have inadequate levels of vitamin D in our bodies and skin as well. Whether this leads to more acne is a subject of ongoing interest. More on antioxidants »
Diet – Perhaps
The impact of diet on any disease is notoriously difficult to study, and acne is no exception. Because of a lack of robust, long-term studies, we do not know whether diet and acne are related, and if so, to what degree. However, it is not yet time to discount the effect of diet on acne, and the admittedly imperfect research that we have thus far points toward the possibility that a high-glycemic diet, as well as low levels of omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and zinc in the diet might contribute to acne. When it comes to dairy, it is too soon to say either way. More on diet »