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What Could be the Triggers for Acne?

What Could Trigger Acne?

Acne is a near universal phenomenon that affects almost everyone at least once in their lifetime, and for some people, it is a chronic problem. Although the exact mechanism leading to acne formation is complicated, we understand many of the key factors that act as triggers that cause acne.

As with many skin problems, not all of the factors are within one's control, but many are, and some lifestyle adjustments can help reduce the chance of acne breakouts occurring and may reduce its severity.

Acne and Oil

The skin is equipped with thousands of oil glands which produce oil called sebum. Sebum serves as a natural moisturizer that protects the skin from drying out, and is an important function of the skin. Unfortunately, excess oiliness can cause the pores to become clogged easier, creating an environment where bacteria can become trapped inside the pores and proliferate.

Thus, the area called the T-Zone (the nose, forehead and mid-cheek area), the back, and the chest where the oil glands are concentrated, are typically where acne becomes a problem. Try to avoid some of these behaviors that worsen the oil in these areas:

  • Use of thick greasy creams that block the pores
  • Long hair that comes into contact with the face
  • Clothing such as hats or helmets that absorb grease and moisture
  • Hair gels and sprays
  • Sleeping on wet hair

Family History

Family history plays a significant role in acne, especially during a person's teen years. A child of a parent or parents who had severe acne is much more likely to suffer from acne as well. Skin type can be passed down, and those with oily skin will be more likely than those with a dry skin type to have acne problems. While there is very little that can be done about family history, there are skin care choices that you can make to counter naturally oily skin:

  • Make proper cleansing a daily routine, and use acne cleansers during breakouts.
  • Don't fall into the trap of over-cleansing however. Once or twice a day should suffice. This can irritate your skin and cause the body to overcompensate by producing even more oil.
  • Avoid products that are too creamy. Greasy moisturizers should be discarded in favor of lighter products that do not aggravate acne.
  • Be patient when using acne medication to control breakouts. They take time to clear, and may initially worsen. For emergency outings, use cover-up cosmetics to hide blemishes.
  • Look at the bright side. Although acne is annoying, oily skin has many advantages over those with dry skin. People with oily skin tend to wrinkle less, and suffer less from dryness during the winter which can be very painful.

Other possible factors:

The mechanism of acne formation is very complicated, and there are many factors in the equation that we still have not figured out. Some causes such as exposure to oily substances or lack of cleansing are well known and researched, and almost universally worsen or act as triggers causing acne outbreaks. However, the lesser factors such as diet, allergies, and stress levels are highly individual, and difficult to prove in studies due to sample size issues, and the difficulty in measurement.

However, it makes sense that if you suspect a substance or an activity to be a consistent trigger of acne, you should do your best to avoid it as much as possible.

  • Stress may be a contributing factor to acne as it is in many other skin problems.
  • Although no controlled studies have found a conclusive causal link, for some people certain foods may increase the likelihood of an acne breakout.
  • Certain medications such as oral corticosteroids can cause acne breakouts in some people.
  • The skin is highly individual. Cosmetics that work perfectly for one person may cause another to break out in acne or otherwise cause the skin to become irritated. Choosing non-comedogenic products can reduce your chances of breaking out, but no product works for everyone, so you may have to experiment a bit to see what works for your skin.

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