If you’ve landed here, chances are you’re familiar with acne, and are here to figure out why those pesky, painful bumps picked your skin as their home. You’re not the only one wondering what causes acne. Acne vulgaris is, after all, among the most common skin conditions.
What Causes Acne
Yet whether spots appear in your teens or only in adulthood; alone or in clusters; are mild, moderate or agonizingly severe, all acne (also not-so-affectionately known as pimples or zits) begin life the same way: with sebaceous glands.
Our bodies are covered in glands that produce the oily secretion known as sebum. Most of these can be found on our face, scalp, neck, chest and upper back. And when the glands produce more sebum than usual, it tends to clog hair follicles. The reason? Retention hyperkeratosis, a process in which skin cells to abnormally accumulate in the follicles instead of shedding, as normal skin would.
This combination of dead skin cells that don’t come off quickly enough and excess oil production creates blockages in the skin. A whitehead or closed comedone is created when the blockage lies deep within, and when it’s on the surface, exposed to air and darkening as a result of oxidation, it’s a blackhead, or open comedone.
Inflammatory vs Non-Inflammatory Acne
Now, whiteheads and blackheads are technically non-inflammatory acne. However, what most people usually mean when they talk about acne is the inflammatory sort, the angry, red spots –papules, pustules, nodules and cysts– that are tender to the touch. These occur when the common and normally harmless propionibacterium acnes bacteria multiply in the comedones to cause inflammation.
You might have heard this one before: hormonal changes are a major cause, which explains why teenagers going through puberty often experience dramatic breakouts. The same goes for women who are pregnant or menopausal, or those with medical conditions that affect hormone levels such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It goes without saying that certain types of hormone-disrupting medication can trigger spots.
While overall genetics determine whether we are more or less predisposed to pimples, the right skincare regimen can manage several major causes: bacteria, excess sebum, and skin cell turnover. Try an exfoliating cleanser like B&B Labs Glyco-Glow Cleanser, which ticks all three boxes: keeping bacteria at bay, balancing skin’s natural moisture levels and gently removing dead skin cells with glycolic acid.
And when acne has reared its head, look for a spot treatment such as B&B Labs Express Blemish Spot Away Solution to effectively dry out spots, even as it soothes. This treatment is especially unique for its balance of calming, antibacterial ingredients like baikal skullcap, moutan peony, and willow bark that work in tandem with zit-zapping favourites witch hazel and zinc oxide.
Sun protection is a skincare must-have, and for acne sufferers, it’s especially important to prevent scars darkening from UV exposure. B&B Labs Multi Protection Solar Invisible Cream and B&B Labs Smart Urban Solar Defense Correcting Cream SPF30’s hardworking, science-backed formulas shield skin from UVA & UVB rays with added benefits of nourishing actives like soothing licorice and skin-protecting moringa.