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What Exactly IS Acne? Why It Happens and What to Do About It

We can all agree that acne is troubling, frustrating, and even emotionally or physically scarring. Acne is like that unwanted guest who shows up uninvited at the worst possible times, overstays its welcome, and embarrasses you in front of your friends. But what exactly IS acne?

Acne is much more than a few adjectives and a relatable comparison. In this article, we’ll break down what acne really is, the different causes, and the treatments that will help you kick acne out the door!

 

How do doctors define acne?  

Acne is more than that annoying pimple which won’t disappear. The Mayo Clinic defines acne as “a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. It often causes whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, and usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders.” 

Although the severity of acne can vary, the signs and symptoms include: blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or cysts.

Teens Health says, “Teens get acne because of the hormonal changes that come with puberty. If your parents had acne as teens, it's more likely that you will, too. The good news is that, for most people, acne goes away almost completely by the time they are out of their teens.” 

While the reason acne appears depends on each person, dermatologists have been able to link the location of the blemishes to the general cause.

 

What are the different kinds of acne?

Now we know that acne is more than an annoying visitor, an ingrown hair, and even one pimple. However, there’s still more to the story. The location of your acne can tell you a lot about why it’s there and how to get rid of it.

In general, there are six different causes of facial acne including: genetics, bacteria, hormones, lack of sleep, cosmetics, and food.

Genetics play a large role when it comes to breakouts, but they’re not the end-all, be-all of your complexion troubles.

Although the likelihood of getting acne is increased of your parents had acne, Well + Good tells us ways you can keep your acne at bay: “Even if you are genetically predisposed to acne, it doesn’t mean you can’t influence the degree to which it affects you by making informed, healthy choices in your lifestyle… If you eat an anti-inflammatory diet, have healthy stress management techniques, and try not to touch your face all day long, you may keep yourself under the threshold for expressing that genetic predisposition.”           

Bacteria is everywhere; on your phone screen, doorknobs, and definitely on your hands. Mixed with makeup, dirt, and sebum, this is a recipe for breakouts! Make sure to disinfect your phone screen and wash your hands multiple times a day.

If you’ve ever had deep, cystic pimples that hide under the skin and are painful to the touch, that’s a sign of hormonal acne. Caused by any changes in hormones including puberty, periods, or pregnancy, this type of acne can be difficult to treat.

Healthline recommends seeing a doctor if this is the case, they can prescribe medications to help balance hormones. Other natural remedies include tea tree oil, green tea, or salicylic acid, which you can find in our Clarifying Blemish Treatment Pads.

Stress and lack of sleep are also huge factors in facial acne. When we are stressed, that often contributes to lack of sleep, which together can cause blemishes. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep!

Time Magazine talked to Dr. Adam Friedman, an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University, and reports “a stress-related hormone called CRH, or corticotrophin-releasing hormone, as one culprit (of stress induced acne). CRH can bind to receptors in the skin’s sebaceous glands, and that binding drives up the skin’s oil production — which can cause pimples.”

If you’re one to wear makeup, your acne could be coming from using the products with irritating ingredients. There is a chance you could be reacting to oils, chemicals, fragrances, or other harsh ingredients. So, try to void using makeup with harsh ingredients to avoid future breakouts. However, this type of acne is easy to treat! Try using cleaner, hypoallergenic products like those made by C’est Moi.

Our resident dermatologist, Dr. Nava Greenfield says, “Formulas with parabens and sulfates have a high reactivity rate, which means that allergic reactions can develop on the skin when in contact with these ingredients. C’est Moi, clean beauty for the next generation, creates gentle and effective products that are game changers for anyone who has delicate, sensitive or blemish-prone skin.”

Certain types of food can cause a lot of internal trouble in your gut, which often appears externally as facial acne. Foods with dairy, gluten, soy, or oil can mean bad things for the skin. If you think this may be the case for your acne, try cutting out these suspicious food groups for about 1-2 months!

The American Academy of Dermatology Association even states, “Consuming milk may contribute to outbreaks of acne. If you suffer from acne, try eliminating milk from your diet to see if it helps clear your skin.”

We understand how frustrating acne can be, especially when you don’t know what’s causing it or how to fix it. We hope this article helped you gain a better understanding of what acne is, why it happens, and how to clear it up!

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