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What Causes Acne?

Acne is a disease of the hair follicles of the face, chest, and back that affects almost all males and females during puberty. Acne develops when sebum (an oily substance that lubricates your hair and skin) and dead skin cells plug the hair follicles. Bacteria can trigger inflammation and infection resulting in complications of acne.

Three factors contribute to the formation of acne:

* Overproduction of oil (sebum)
* Irregular shedding of dead skin cells resulting in irritation of the hair follicles of your skin
* Buildup of bacteria

Acne occurs when the hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. Each follicle is connected to sebaceous glands. These glands secrete an oily substance known as sebum to lubricate your hair and skin. Sebum normally travels up along the hair shafts and then out through the opening of the hair follicle onto the surface of your skin. When your body produces an excess amount of sebum and dead skin cells, the two can build up in the hair follicle and form together as a soft plug.

This plug may cause the follicle wall to bulge and produce a whitehead. Or, the plug may be open to the surface and may darken, causing a blackhead. Pimples are raised red spots with a white center that develop when blocked hair follicles become inflamed or infected. Blockages and inflammation that develop deep inside hair follicles produce lumps beneath the surface of your skin called cysts. Other pores in your skin, which are the openings of the sweat glands onto your skin, aren’t normally involved in acne.

It’s not known what causes the increased production of sebum that leads to acne. But a number of factors, including hormones, bacteria, certain medications and heredity, play a role. Contrary to what some people think, greasy foods and chocolate have little effect on acne. Studies are ongoing to determine whether other dietary factors, including high-starch foods such as bread, bagels and chips, which increase blood sugar, may play a role in acne.

Acne isn’t caused by dirt. In fact, scrubbing the skin too hard or cleansing with harsh soaps or chemicals irritates the skin and can make acne worse. Simple cleansing of the skin to remove excess oil and dead skin cells is all that’s required.

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