How an underlying condition can be the cause of your acne


Although acne usually occurs during puberty, adults, to their chagrin, can also be affected. It’s bad enough when you have it during puberty. But, when you are well into adulthood and still have acne, it can be overwhelming.

Over the past two decades, the number of adults who have had acne has increased; about 85% of them are women. Acne, in fact, is now the eighth most common skin disease worldwide.

In its mild form, adult acne consists of whiteheads, blackheads, and small pustules, while moderate adult acne consists of papules. The papules could cover a quarter to three quarters of the face or body. In severe cases, adult acne causes deep cysts, extreme redness, irritation, and swelling.

Teenage acne

For teens, acne is primarily caused by hormonal conditions brought on by male hormones called “androgens”. This hormone, combined with fatty acids on the sebaceous glands and bacteria on the skin, could cause acne. Eighty-five percent of adolescents are affected; according to GoodRx, there are many ways to treat acne.

Acne is mostly normal; however, certain conditions could exacerbate it. This includes picking and pushing your pimple, which is the worst thing you can do with acne. Certain types of clothing and headwear can also make your acne break out.

Causes of acne in adults

Most adult acne is caused by blocked pores and inflammation. Acne can be persistent, and, sometimes, genetics are to blame. But, even so, its onset can be triggered by other underlying factors. These are:


Hormonal changes in men or women can cause acne in adults because of the way they affect the body, including the condition of the skin. Hormonal fluctuations can also cause inflammation, pH imbalance, oily skin, and circulation differences. Besides the onset of menopause, hormonal changes in women occur during:

  • Pregnancy
  • Menstruation
  • Postpartum period
  • Breastfeeding

Often tender or painful, acne caused by hormonal fluctuations often resembles a cyst.


Biological changes in your body caused by emotional stress could also trigger acne in adults. Your adrenal glands make more cortisol when you’re feeling anxious, scared, or under pressure. Too much cortisol can cause an imbalance in your skin.

Another trigger that can affect your hormones is physical stress which can cause inflammation and weaken your immunity. Some causes of physical stress are:

  • Dehydration
  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Sickness
  • Lack of sleep
  • Exposure to environmental irritants

Smokers are also more likely to have acne in adults, as well as people with allergies and migraines. Air pollution can also cause acne in adults.

Contact dermatitis

Many substances can irritate the skin. Contact dermatitis is a reaction to an irritant that causes an itchy rash or inflammation. Examples of such irritants are substances such as chemicals in cleaning products or poison ivy allergens. Sometimes even a razor on dry skin can also cause a reaction.


Propionibacterium acnes is a bacteria which, when present in the skin, can cause acne. These bacteria can often remain intact even with washing and can build up under the skin.


Medicines are also known to cause acne. These are antidepressants, epilepsy treatments, and corticosteroids. There have been cases where contraceptives have been used to treat acne, but some formulations may actually have triggered acne instead. Consult your doctor to help you choose the formula that is best for you.

Clogged pores

The pores of your skin contain sebaceous glands which produce oil for your skin called sebum. The excess sebum clogs your pores and gets trapped, which is the start of redness and swelling and eventually acne. Oily skin is particularly sensitive to this.

Cosmetics can also combine with your skin oil to trigger cosmetic acne, a kind of escape caused by cosmetics. A combination of all three (dirt, oil, and makeup) can lead to a buildup that clogs pores, traps bacteria, and causes acne breakouts. For women, they need to thoroughly cleanse their face to rid the skin of these irritants that clog the pores.

Diet and acne

While there is no scientific evidence that foods like sugar, chocolate, or fatty foods cause acne, there appear to be certain types of foods that could trigger acne in some people. If you notice that certain types of food break out your acne, avoid them.


When pimples do appear, at any age, know that they do it for a reason. Find out what is causing these breakouts, as the culprit might not be superficial.


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