Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point during their lives. It causes oily skin, redness and spots, which can make your skin red or painful to touch.
Acne happens when the hair follicles in your skin (the little holes that your hairs grow from) get blocked. Hair follicles can get blocked when the sebaceous glands (glands near the surface of your skin) make too much sebum. Sebum is an oil that helps keep your skin moisturised, and stops it from drying out. Too much sebum will block your pores and cause spots.
Acne is most common in teenagers or young adults. Teenage acne is triggered by the increased levels of testosterone in your body when you go through puberty. The change in hormones triggers your sebaceous glands to make more sebum than your skin needs. This causes your follicles to block and produces spots.
Acne can happen to anyone at any age. It is also thought to run in families, which means that you are more likely to have acne if your parents had it in the past.
What causes acne in adults?
Over 80% of all the cases of adult acne occur in women. This is because women are usually more exposed to changes in their hormone levels. These can be caused by:
- periods (some women find that their spots get worse just before their period)
- pregnancy (acne is most common in the first three months of pregnancy)
- contraception (hormonal contraceptive methods can sometimes trigger acne symptoms, as well as making them better)
- polycystic ovaries (this is a common condition that causes small cysts in your ovaries, weight gain, and acne)
In men and women, adult acne can be caused by:
- certain cosmetic products, like make-up or creams
- medications like steroids (lithium) or drugs for epilepsy
- wearing things like headbands, hats, or rucksacks everyday that rub against areas of your skin where you commonly get spots
Can stress cause acne?
Yes, stress can trigger your acne symptoms. This is because stress causes a change to your hormone levels, which increases the amount of sebum produced by your skin.
What can trigger acne?
Can can be triggered by a range of factors, including:
- hormone changes
- certain medications
- air pollution
What can you do about it?
There are lots of self-help techniques you can use to help reduce your acne:
- remember to take off all your make-up before going to bed
- wash your skin with lukewarm water and a mild cleanser or soap to avoid irritation
- don’t wash your skin more than twice a day (this can make it much worse)
- use water-based, non-perfumed products to help dry skin
- shower after exercising to avoid sweat irritating your acne
- wash your hair regularly to avoid a buildup of grease
If these don’t help, your doctor can prescribe you a course of antibiotics or a prescription strength gel. Acne medications often have side effects which can be severe.
What is ‘bacne’?
Bacne is acne that develops on your back. It affects over 50% of people with acne.
Acne is most common on the face, but can also occur on your back or chest.
Common myths about acne
Despite what some people might tell you, acne is not caused by:
- a bad diet (eating a balanced diet is always good for your health, but no research has found any foods that can cause acne on their own)
- dirty skin or poor hygiene (in fact, washing your skin too much can make acne worse)
- masturbating or having sex
- other people (acne isn’t contagious or infectious, and you can’t pass it to other people by touching)