Overview of Acne

Acne is a disorder of the hair follicles in which blackheads (comedones) develop in the skin. Increased flow from oil (sebaceous) glands in the dermis combined with increased shedding of dead skin cells can cause the oil-cell mixture to block the follicle openings, resulting in comedones. If clogged follicles become infected with bacteria, inflammation and closed, pus-filled comedones (pustules) may develop.

Acne Causes

Teenagers develop acne at a higher rate than other age groups. This is because hormone production during puberty increases the output of the sebaceous glands and the rate of skin-cell turnover within the follicles. However, children as young as 5 years old and adults can develop acne as well. In young women, it often worsens and improves with the rise and fall of hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.

There is a genetic predisposition for acne; that is, people whose family members have acne are also likely to have it.

Stress may also affect acne; the condition often worsens during times of stress and improves during more stable periods.

Many people believe that poor dietary habits can cause acne. Foods with high sugar and fat content, such as chocolate, are thought to affect the skin follicles. However, there is no clinical evidence to support this. Studies show no connection between junk food and acne. Some people find that certain foods, such as dairy products, worsen acne.

Propionibacteria acnes is the common bacterial cause of skin infection that accompanies acne. These bacteria are present whether the patient has adolescent, persistent or adult-onset acne.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Aug 2000

Last Modified: 26 Aug 2015