What causes Acne?

acne conglobata

All of us, at some point, have had a stubborn pimple ruin our skin for days. Pimples can be unsightly, painful and challenging to get rid of, but a pimple is different from acne. Here’s a little more about what acne is and the causes that lead to it.  But first, let’s look at the difference between the two terms.

What is a pimple?

Inflammation of the skin characterises a pimple; this happens due to the blockage of pores by dirt. The sebaceous glands that lay under your skin secrete oil through these pores, and when there is a blockage, that’s when it externally manifests as a pimple.

What is Acne?

Acne is like an umbrella term used when there is a breakage on the skin, not just in the form of pimples, but also blackheads, freckles, whiteheads all together in a particular area. It is also a chronic condition (which means its persistent and lasts for a long time), which should ideally be attended to by a dermatologist.  

There are also different kinds of acne, namely: Acne Vulgaris, Acne Fulminans, Acne Mechanica.

What causes acne?

Many different things can actually cause acne on your skin.

  • Genes 

Almost 80% of the reported cases are hereditary. Genetics can sometimes decide how your skin deals with bacteria. Your texture or skin type can also be dependent on your genes, and if it’s genetic to have oily skin, that might likely increase your chances of developing acne.

  • Hormones   

Most of the time, acne happens to adolescents who have just hit puberty; this is because of the surge in hormone levels. Sebum at the bottom of your hair follicles which is necessary for oil secretion is easily affected by hormones. A teenager at puberty experiences high levels of hormones such as Testosterone, which triggers more oil secretion.

  • Infections 

Most of the time, bacteria clogs up your pores and causes inflammation when the infection goes deep down into your skin. This leads to what is known as Cystic Acne. The pus and fluid from it can cause even more of it. 

  • Diet 

One thing to keep in mind is that your dietary intake will affect your skin and hair at all times. Oily food and even dairy products will thus increase the oil content of your body, which will only increase the chances of pimples. Although this might not be true for all people, it is still generally advised to stay away from junk food if you have acne or are prone to it.

  • Stress 

Stress itself does not cause acne in the sense that it wouldn’t result in newly formed pimples. But, it can worsen what that already exists. Even though it’s unclear what the connection between the two may be, it is a common idea that emotional stress triggers sebum secretion.

  • Environmental factors 

This is a factor that can either aggravate or cause acne. There is more sweat in humid climates or summer, and this, combined with dirt, clogs up your pores if not attended to properly. The dust and pollution in your environment can also be another reason for this. Not just summers but even dry winters can cause it. If your skin is dehydrated, it aims at producing more oil to keep it moist; this could, in turn, clog your pores and result in acne.

  • Medication 

Certain medicines can alter your hormones, thus causing irregularities that may manifest in the form of acne. This form of pimples that appear due to medication, is said to look different from regular acne.

  • Sleep 

Night-time is when our body gets to do some damage control along with detoxification. Continuous sleep deprivation means that your body functioning can get hindered, causing your immune system to weaken. The weakened immune system results in your skin being more prone to bacteria, it also increases an inflammatory response, and even small pimples can end up as big ones.

When to see a doctor?

The factor to keep in mind is that these causes vary from person to person, depending on the skin type and bodily functions. With a condition like acne, it’s best not to use a trial and error method on your skin, as this could worsen your situation and permanently leave marks and scars. According to this article, if you know that you have acne, it is best to consult a professional on the matter to get cured.

The silver lining

Acne is not the end of the world! With the proper treatment, you can get it cleared away with time. Patience here is vital. A dermatologist’s advice combined with the right skincare routine for your skin type can help you keep your skin healthy and nourished.


1. How do I stop acne breakouts?

Start with identifying the cause of your acne. A dermatologist can help you with this. Next, take precautions to avoid aggravating your skin and seek treatment from a doctor.

2. What age is acne the worst?

This varies from person to person as well as the cause for the acne. Usually, it is the worst in teenagers.

3. Can drinking water reduce acne?

Drinking water can be great for your skin. It hydrates it and keeps it healthy and supple. Indirectly this can help with your pimples by promoting the overall health of your skin.

4. What are the stages of acne?

There are four stages of acne. They start with comedones, papules, pustules and finally cysts.

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Picture of Dr Jisha Gomez

Dr Jisha Gomez

She is a highly skilled dermatology physician with strong expertise in improving skin & hair health through the development of corrective treatment combinations. She completed her Post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff, UK & Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine (FAM) from the Institute of Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, Delhi with over 5+ years experience treating skin patients. She has worked in Government hospitals in Trivandrum and Bangalore. She is actively involved in creating awareness for healthy skin, breaking the social stigma based on skin colour & stopping steroid abuse in our country.