What are the causes of acne?
There’s a variety of causes, so it’s important that you have the right diagnosis.
Most spots are acne, but not all spots are acne. Acne spots are usually caused by hormone changes. They most commonly start in the teenage years. What happens is that the hormones that are normal at this stage in life, produce a change to the oil glands deeper in the skin around the hair follicles. This changes the oil gland, produces more oil and this can allow the growth of certain bacteria called kerino bacterium acnes or “the acne bacteria” that then in turn can produce the redness that we know is the acne spot.
The blackhead, or the whitehead is actually the very first sign of acne and that’s caused, again, by the hormones acting to block the opening of the sebaceous glands, so acne is a result of that. There are a variety of things that can make acne worse, including stress, including excess hormones from underlying problems in the body, including certain medicines that are taken, like some of the oral contraceptive pills. Some medicines that are used for epilepsy, for example.
There is a wide range of medicines that can give acne as a result. Stress can make acne worse. There were some very interesting studies done tracking women students in the United States during the course of their years. Times of high stress, such as exams, correlated well with the acne being more severe. Some cosmetics and heavy makeups can make acne worse. So there are a variety of things that can make acne worse.
One of the reasons that we’re seeing much more acne in post-teenage women, and I will see acne in women in their thirties, forties, fifties, is probably because some of those women have a high stress lifestyle. That’s almost certainly what’s triggering their acne.