What Causes Acne?


Acne is a very common skin condition, affecting up to 95% of all teenagers and 10% of the adult population.

Whilst teenage acne is generally experienced by both males and females, women are 2 x more likely than men to suffer from acne in adulthood. This is thought to be due to an increase in stress, hormonal changes, change of diet and over use of the wrong skin care products.

While we can’t always control breakouts, understanding some of the possible causes of acne can help you find the best products for your skin.

Our skin has a natural process of shedding dead skin cells and producing oil (sebum), to maintain a healthy status. Sebum is produced by our sebaceous glands which are small glands in the skin that secrete sebum into the hair follicles to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair. Blemishes and breakouts (acne) occur when the skin’s natural processes are disrupted, or get out of balance, which can lead to an over production of serum, pore blockages and an increase in acne causing bacteria and inflammation.


Key causes of acne include:


Signs of acne often start during puberty, when the body is creating different hormones. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and become overstimulated. This can also happen during pregnancy and the menstrual cycle.

When the sebaceous gland is over active and producing extra sebum, it causes dead skin cells to shed more rapidly. The extra sebum in the follicle mixes with the faster shedding dead skin cells which increases the chances of blocked pores, causing blemishes.

Bacteria & inflammation

Just like our digestive system, the skin needs to maintain the right balance of good and bad bacteria to remain in optimum health. When pores start to get blocked, an environment that favours acne causing bacteria can be produced. The presence of these bacteria are associated with inflammation, resulting in red, swollen and painful blemishes or pimples.


Genes can influence how sensitive your skin is to hormones. Therefore, family history can sometimes give you an idea of how likely it may be that you may develop any form of acne and how minor or severe it may be.

External Factors

Various external factors can play a role in acne development. These include but are not limited to: cosmetics that block pores, aggressive detergents that can alter the natural microbiome of the skin, and medicines that cause a shift in hormone levels, or the natural microbiome of the skin.


There are mixed opinions on the role of diet and the presence of acne. There is some evidence to suggest that some foods can stimulate different hormone levels in individuals but to date, these observations are yet to be fully investigated and proven.