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You have probably heard a million different theories as to what causes acne, such as:
✔️ Acne is an internal issue; you need to do a detox or cleanse.
✔️ Acne is caused from a dirty face; you need to scrub your skin until it is squeaky clean.
✔️ Acne is caused by greasy foods and a poor diet; you need to drink celery juice and become a vegetarian.
✔️ Acne is caused by makeup; you should never wear makeup.
✔️ Acne is caused by hormones; you probably have a hormonal imbalance.
✔️ Acne is caused by a curse that someone put on you….Yep, that’s right, I have actually had a client who told me that her parents hired a witch doctor to lift the curse which caused her acne!
So, what actually causes acne?
It all starts with the pores. Our pores are the little openings in the skin which are connected to our hair follicles. Each pore contains an oil gland and a sweat gland which release oil (or sebum) to lubricate the skin and sweat to help regulate our body temperature. But did you know our pores have their own self-cleaning process?
The lining of our pores is made up of skin cells. Just like the surface of the skin, the lining of our pores will shed dead skin cells daily. A normal functioning pore will shed one layer of dead skin cells every day and this is where the skin’s self-cleaning process takes over. The oil and sweat that is produced creates a flushing process which cleans the dead skin cells out of the pore, but also removes any bacteria or debris that may have gotten down into the pores.
This natural flushing process is why some of our friends can go without washing their face at night and never breakout. They have normal, functioning pores that keep their pores clear and skin blemish free.
So, what is different for those who suffer with acne?
It is due to genetically defective pores, meaning that a gene was passed down which causes the pores to malfunction. Pores with the “acne gene” will hyper-shed dead skin cells. Instead of the normal shedding of one layer of skin cell, someone who is acne prone will shed approximately five times as many of dead skin cells daily. This pile up of dead skin cells is so dense and heavy that the oil and sweat is not able to flush it out. Instead, the oil* and sweat creates a biofilm (a glue-like substance) that binds all of the dead skin cells together creating a clogged pore (aka microcomedone). In short, clogged pores created from the build-up of dead skin cells in the pore are the true cause of acne.
While it seems like this build up would be noticeable right away, because our skin cells are microscopic, it can take 90 days for the microcomedone to turn into acne that you can see or feel. This means breakouts or clogged pores that you have now may have started forming 3 months ago.
*research has shown that a person with acne prone skin also produces a stickier consistency of oil/sebum which assists in the formation of the microcomedone (or clogged pore).
Once the pores become clogged, they will either become inflamed acne or non-inflamed acne:
Inflamed acne is commonly known as pimples, pustules, whiteheads, cysts, hormonal breakouts. Inflamed acne occurs when acne bacteria* becomes trapped in the clogged pores. Since the bacteria’s food source is our oil/sebum, and the bacteria is conveniently trapped where our oil is produced, the bacteria will rapidly grow and proliferate into a cesspool of inflamed and tender acne breakouts. Pimples, pustules and whiteheads will appear on the surface of the skin and whereas cystic acne is an infection deeper in the pore which sometimes is not apparent on the surface of the skin other than a tender lump.
**whether you are acne prone or not, we all have acne bacteria on our skin. The difference is that a normal functioning pore is able to flush out the bacteria so that it does not create an infection within the pore. However, pores with the “acne gene” trap the bacteria in the pore providing it with the perfect environment to thrive.
Non-inflamed acne, which is commonly referred to as blackheads, clogged pores and milia, is simply the buildup of dead skin cells without acne bacteria present. Blackheads are “black” in color due to the oil on the surface of the pore which oxidizes when it comes into contact with air. This is similar to how a cut apple will gradually turn brown when it’s exposed to air. Milia feels like a little seed under your skin. Its outward appearance resembles a whitehead with no inflammation. Milia are difficult to extract since they don’t contain pus. Instead of debris, they contain a mixture of dead skin cells and oil that create a solid “seed” under the skin. Milia requires professional extraction to prevent damage to the skin.
While the cause of acne is quite simple, acne is so multi-faceted since there are many triggers that exacerbate the condition and keep the skin in a cycle of continuous acne flare-ups. Some examples of these triggers include:
✔️ Skin care, makeup, and hair care products (comedogenic and acnegenic ingredients)
✔️ Certain foods, vitamins and supplements
✔️ Lifestyle habits
✔️ Hormonal factors (including birth control, hormone replacement therapy)
To successfully clear acne, we not only need to address the cause (the microcomedone formation) and control the acne bacteria, but we also have to uncover and eliminate all the triggers that will stand in the way of clear skin.
All of this is the reason why I offer everyone a free online consultation so that we can troubleshoot the skin and find all the hidden triggers that are acne saboteurs. (Click here to start your free online Skin Consultation).