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What Causes Acne, and How do you Treat it?

You are probably wondering - why me? What causes acne and why did it have to appear on my face out of all the faces in the world. Let's get one thing straight: acne is not your fault. But that doesn't mean that it can't be treated, and even prevented in the first place.

All types of acne are caused by the same three factors. So, what are the three main causes of acne?

  1. Overactive oil glands

  2. An excess of dead skin cells

  3. A build-up of a certain bacteria

These main acne triggers are most commonly linked to geneticshormone levels, birth control, stress, and excess sweating.

That means that developing acne has less to do with actions like touching your face, certain haircuts, or specific foods (which is why we stress that acne isn't your fault).

Let's dive deeper into the causes of acne, so that we can better learn how to prevent it and treat it.

A woman touches acne on her face

Overactive Oil Glands

In your skin, in each pore, you have oil-producing glands called sebaceous glands. The sebaceous gland's job is to produce an oily substance called sebumthat keeps your skin healthy, moisturized, and protected.

But in people with acne, the sebaceous glands become overactive, and there is an increase in sebum production.

That excess oil then fills your pore and creates a blockage. This blocked pore is not just surface level, but instead, the sebaceous gland creates enough sebum that it fills the gland itself, the hair follicle, and up to the top of the clogged opening.

That clogged pore makes the perfect home for acne-causing bacteria.

Excess oil production can be caused by a myriad of factors. Genetics is chief among them – if your parents had acne, you're far more likely to get it yourself. 

How to Treat Overactive Oil Glands

Washing your face isn't enough to halt overactive sebum production, and typical facewash won't get into the pore to clear out the excess oil. That means that most facewashes and products simply clean, dry out, or irritate the top of your pimples, without really getting in to cure them and treat your skin.

Fortunately, with a combination of science and natural acne remedies, there are ingredients that can get to the root of the issue when used in conjunction with other treatments.

Some ingredients to look out for to treat overactive oil glands:

Both the Exposed Skincare Facial Cleanser and the Clear Pore Serum use salicylic acid to unclog and shrink pores, so that other treatment against bacteria (like benzyol peroxide) can enter into the skin instead of just washing over it. Pro-Vitamin B5 also regulates oil production to prevent more acne from forming later on.

Green tea extract, present in the Exposed Skincare Clearing Tonic and the Acne Treatment Serum, also works to regulate sebum production without drying out your skin or causing further irritation.

Excess Dead Skin Cells

The top layer of your skin, the epidermis, is constantly exfoliating and refreshing itself by creating new skin cells underneath, and shedding the dead skin cells on top. You are always shedding dead skin cells as they are replaced by new, young skin cells underneath.

But people with acne produce more skin cells than the average person.

A man cleanses his face with a cloth.

Beyond that, the dead skin cells of people with acne often do not shed properly. This creates a build-up of dead skin cells in the epidermis, which get stuck inside your hair follicles, blocking the pore opening on the top, and contributing further to blocking your pores.

How to Treat Excess Dead Skin Cells

Treating acne, especially severe acne, means clearing away excess skin cells and slowing down the production of new skin cells.

Ingredients that treat abnormal shedding of skin cells:

Azelaic acid is essential in treating acne because it helps open up the follicle, which prevents it from getting clogged. It also helps your skin shed more dead skin cells.

Glycolic acid has a dual effect when applied to the skin, helping your body shed more dead skin cells on the upper layer while also stimulating the production of new skin cells below.

It's for this reason that glycolic acid is also often used as an anti-aging ingredient or to minimize the appearance of acne scars, as it gives your skin a youthful and supple glow.

Bacteria Build-Up

So, due to overactive oil glands and an excess of dead skin cells, you have blocked hair follicles filled with sebum. This is the perfect storm for the next step.

Inside a blocked pore, oxygen can't get in. The bacteria Propionibacteria acnes or P. acnes thrives in this oxygen-free environment, so these bacteria start to reproduce and grow within the pore.

P. acnes eats the oil inside the pore, digests it, and produces a fatty acid waste that irritates the lining of the pore and causes inflammation and redness. At this point, you may already be noticing the blemish.

Then, the inflammation and waste from P. acnes trigger your immune system, which sends white blood cells, or pus, to help you out. But because the pore is clogged, the pus-filled blemish builds up, and now you've got a zit that just ruined your morning.

Acne on a woman's cheek

How to Treat Bacteria Build-Up

There are some acne products known to kill the P. acnes bacteria, but they need to be able to get into the pore. Some acne products simply add more and more of these bacteria-killing elements, but, similar to many face washes, they sit on top of the acne without ever getting inside.

That's why these ingredients work best in conjunction with the other ingredients listed above in a holistic approach.

With that being said, here are the best ingredients for treating bacteria in the skin:

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most popular acne treatments, but its effectiveness depends less on the amount of benzoyl peroxide, and more on a comprehensive treatment that allows the benzoyl peroxide to get inside your pore where the bacteria lives.

For example, some famous acne treatment options include 5% benzoyl peroxide, which is far too high and can cause side effects that actually worsen your skin's condition.

Tea tree extract is a natural, gentle antibacterial that is also extremely effective in treating bacteria in the skin.

Conclusion: What Causes Acne, and How do you Treat It?

Acne is a common, yet multi-faceted problem, and, as such, it requires a multi-faceted approach.

While no one of these ingredients may work on their own to treat the three main causes of acne vulgaris, when used in conjunction, they can make an enormous difference in your skin's health.

The Exposed Skincare Kits include all these ingredients and more to really get to the cause of your acne to treat it and prevent it. More importantly, Exposed Skincare products contribute to skin health in general, using both natural and scientific ingredients.

The Exposed Ultimate kit
The Exposed Skincare Ultimate Kit.

Because we understand acne and we know that these ingredients work, we offer the best guarantee in the industry: if you do not see a reduction in acne or smoother skin you can get a full refund within ONE YEAR of your purchase.

Acne goes beyond the surface of your skin. It can affect your confidence, your personality, your self-image, and more. That's why we don't mess around with empty promises and dishonest marketing teams. We tell you that our product works because we know that it works.

Experience the high quality of Exposed Skincare, and leave your acne in the past.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does smoking cause acne?

A 2001 British study found that smoking was a contributing factor to both acne prevalence and severity; this is especially true for those who smoke heavily. A 2005 study, however, found no relationship between smoking and an increased risk of any form of acne.

A more recent 2016 study summarizes the current attitude surrounding this question well. While exploring data surrounding common acne risk factors, including smoking cigarettes, researchers found that, while smokers seemed to experience acne at higher rates, a lack of convincing data to directly link the two phenomena means more research is needed before definite claims can be made in either direction.

Does alcohol cause acne?

There is little research directly exploring the connection between drinking alcohol and acne prevalence. However, it is true that lifestyle choices like excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the body's natural ability to fight inflammation, keep hormones in balance, and heal, all of which may contribute to more frequent breakouts or make acne worse.

Does nicotine cause acne?

While nicotine may not cause acne on its own, it has been shown to cause problems that contribute to the development or worsening of acne vulgaris.

Consequences like increased levels of inflammation, immunosuppressing effects that make it hard for the skin to fight off potential pathogens, and the destruction of collagen (which makes it harder for the skin to heal and look healthy) can all be the result of nicotine use and affect the health of your skin.

Does chocolate cause acne?

Researchers currently do not believe there to be a significant, direct link between diet choices, including foods like chocolate, and acne.

Some studies suggest that exposure to lots of foods that are rich in carbohydrates may cause changes to glucose levels in the body and influence hormonal changes (which in turn lead to acne), but more research is needed to confirm or deny this fact.

Does smoking weed cause acne?

There isn't any research to suggest that THC, the active molecule found in marijuana, causes acne or harms the skin; in fact, other molecules found in cannabis, particularly CBD, are actually well-known for their ability to curb inflammation.

But, smoke in general is harmful to the body and the skin regardless of where it comes from thanks to its tendency to cause more inflammation.

Does creatine cause acne?

Creatine is not known to cause acne and is in fact one of the safest nutritional supplements used by athletes to improve performance. When used appropriately, it can act as an alternative to harmful, dangerous anabolic steroids, which do cause severe acne and other adverse effects.

Does vaping cause acne?

Vaping nicotine can cause the release of proinflammatory cytokines, decrease cell viability, and even change the structure of the skin, all of which can contribute to the development or worsening of acne.

Does biotin cause acne?

Biotin does not cause acne; in fact, normal levels of biotin are known to be a vital part of hair, nail, and skin growth and health. Studies note that while it's unnecessary for those without a biotin deficiency to ingest more, biotin may help support skin hydration and overall skin health.

Does sugar cause acne?

The jury is still out on how a diet high in sugar impacts the skin, largely because studies attempting to answer this question can have contradictory results. The most promising link between diet and skin health, though, is the way a high glycemic load (achieved through eating lots of sugar, carbohydrate-rich foods) impacts the body's production of hormones, which may indeed contribute to the development of skin conditions like acne.

So, sugar may not really cause acne on its own, and eating a balanced diet that includes sugar shouldn't impact your skin. But, too much sugar and a lack of skincare may increase your risk of breakouts overall.