What causes acne?
When the hair follicle becomes plugged with oil and skin cells, a “whitehead” occurs. If the follicle is plugged near the surface of the skin and air touches the plug, it turns black and is called a "blackhead." A blackhead isn't caused by dirt.
If the wall of a plugged hair follicle breaks, the area swells and turns into a red bump. If the hair follicle wall breaks near the skin surface, the bump usually becomes a pimple. If the wall breaks deep in the skin, acne nodules or cysts can form. This is called "cystic acne."
Who gets acne?
Both boys and girls get acne. But it may be worse in boys because they have more skin oils. For many people, acne symptoms fade by the age of 25, but they can continue well into the adult years.
Family history also plays a role. If your mother and father had bad acne, you may have it, too.
Your immune system plays a role too. Some people are extra sensitive to the bacteria that get trapped in their hair follicles.
Things that often make acne worse
- Oil-based makeup, suntan oil and hair products
- Hormonal changes, especially during menstruation
- Squeezing or picking at blemishes
- Hard scrubbing of the skin
Things that don't cause acne
- Chocolate or french fries
- Sexual activity
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff