Acne issues can be both mentally and physically debilitating. While moderate acne issues don’t usually require immediate medical attention, any level of acne will often cause confidence issues and will hurt a patient’s self-esteem. Cosmetically, acne blemishes can ruin an otherwise perfect face and complexion. From reddish pink – raised bumps, to whiteheads, blackheads or cysts, acne blemishes can present themselves in a number of different ways.

Dirt, Oils, and Hair Follicles

Acne is generally a product of excess facial oil, known as sebum. The sebum causes dirt, hair, dead skin cells, and bacteria to be trapped within the pores. Hair follicles come from the pores along the face and body and are connected to your oil glands. When the follicle wall becomes inflamed, a whitehead is produced, however, when the follicle opening is exposed to dirt or dead skin cells a blackhead will form. Similarly, when the hair follicle opening is inflamed and is exposed to bacteria – it becomes infected and a red pimple develops. The deeper the infection occurs within the follicle, the more cystic the acne becomes.

What Triggers Breakouts?

Many assume acne is caused by greasy foods, and while this may not wholly correct, certain lifestyle habits can indirectly act as a trigger and aggravate or cause a breakout. The most common acne triggers are:

· Hormonal Changes – Hormones known as androgens cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge, and create excess sebum (oil). The production of these hormones is common during puberty for both men and women. In addition, the hormonal changes that occur for women during pregnancy or through the use of birth control, are also known to increase sebum production.

· Diet – While foods don’t directly cause acne, our diet has a lot to do with our overall health as well as the production of certain hormones within the body. Indirectly, certain foods, like – milk/dairy, carbohydrates, as well as sugary chocolates are known to make acne worse and can trigger breakouts.

· Stress – Stress produces cortisol and other harmful hormones within the body. These hormonal changes cause breakouts.

· Medications – Acne can also be caused by the use of certain drugs, both prescription and non-prescription.

Acne Myths

There are a number of common misconceptions regarding acne issues, and misinformation is common. The following have little to no effect on acne.

· Makeup – Makeup barely has any direct effect on acne. However, certain poor-quality makeup can harm your skin overall causing other facial marks and blemishes. For best results, use oil-free makeup that doesn’t clog the pores, and make sure to remove makeup at bedtime and whenever it isn’t necessary.

· Greasy Food – The amount of grease in one’s diet has almost no effect on acne or the production of facial oils. However, the consumption of fatty, greasy foods can be an overall detriment to your health and wellness – causing acne as a side effect, down the line.

· Hygiene – This is a common myth, that is an individual wash their face repeatedly they are less likely to get acne. However, the opposite is true. Over-washing of the face, or using harsh soaps and chemicals on the face can trigger breakouts. Also, a certain number of bacteria and sebum is necessary for the health of the skin.

Acne Risk Factors

The following factors are known to trigger acne breakouts.

· Age – Acne can occur at any age, however, it is far more prevalent in those in their teenage years.

· Genetics – Acne has a lot to do with family history; if your parents and grandparents suffered from acne breakouts than it is far more likely for you to as well.

· Greasy Products – One of the major factors known to contribute to the proliferation of acne is the use of lotions or skin care products with grease or oils known to clog up pores and hair follicles.

· Hormones – Most common for teenagers, women, and girls – when going through periods of change and development, experience hormonal imbalances that lead to acne.

· Physical Irritations – When your skin comes into contact with items that may cause friction or unclean surfaces – like phones, straps on a bag, hats, or headbands – these areas are far more susceptible to acne.

· Lifestyle – Those living a high-stress life, or working in a high-pressure environment are far more likely to suffer acne issues than those who do not.