Understanding Acne (Part 1): What Causes Acne


Understanding Acne (Part 1): What Causes Acne

This is part 1 of a 3 part series. The goal of this series is to help you understand your acne in a whole new way so you can take the health of your skin into your own hands.

Yes, you can heal your acne without harsh products or prescriptions. What it takes is patience, kindness to yourself, and an understanding of what’s going on with your skin. In my next three articles I want to address that later point.

Most of us acne suffers are familiar with some version of the image at the top. We know the problem is that our pores get blocked, oil and bacteria build up, cause inflammation and form a pimple – but what causes that to happen? I’ve found that many people don’t really understand why they have acne. I believe that by demystifying what leads to a pimple, you can begin to approach the problem more clearly and calmly (and that’s half the battle!)

To get to the heart of the problem, you need to understand what actually causes acne. So let’s briefly talk about the very first things that happen to trigger the acne process.

It all starts deep within your pore. When the oil inside your pore interacts with oxygen, it can sometimes cause a process called oxidation. This causes the oil to breakdown and become unstable, and unstable oil can trigger inflammation.

This is a tiny inflammatory reaction. One that you would never know about. But this tiny amount of inflammation can trigger more oxidation, which triggers more inflammation, which triggers more oxidation, which… well, you get the picture.

acne triggers

This viscous cycle causes the skin cells that line your pore to stay stuck together. Normally, as skin cells die, they shed one by one. Within your pore, the dead skin cells go with the flow of oil up to the surface of your skin and cause no problems. The oxidation and inflammation process prevents the cells from shedding normally however, and this creates clumps of dead skin cells within the pore.

As the clumps of dead skin cells make their way through the pore to the surface of your skin, they get stuck at the narrow opening of your pore. This makes a sort of log jam. Now your pore is blocked. Oil and dead skin cells start building up behind this block and the pore starts to swell.

acne process block

Bacteria love this environment and they start to have a party. Your body responds with even more inflammation and sends in white blood cells to fight the infection, and now, you have a full blown zit.

zit lifecycle

This is a nice visual to help you to understand why products haven’t been able to fully help you. If you’re only treating your skin with products, you aren’t actually preventing acne. What you’re doing is trying to fight a fire that’s already gotten started.

For example, benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics mainly work by fighting bacteria. As you can see, that comes pretty late in the game. Salicylic acid and retinol products help by breaking up the clumped dead skin cells, and that can help for awhile, but it’s still not addressing the initial triggers – the oxidation and inflammation.

acne product

What’s worse though, is that over time, these products can actually cause acne. They don’t only go to work in pores that need help. They do their thing in all your pores. And sometimes, by the very natural of how they work, they trigger inflammation and oxidation – the two things that start a pimple.

Even if you find a product that works for you, because you haven’t addressed the root problem, you’re going to always be stuck using that product. But odds are that over time, that product is actually going to cause you to breakout. Then you’ll have to find another product. And you’re just going to be stuck in that cycle.

So then what starts the whole process? What can you do about it?

Fear not. I’m going to address those questions in the next two parts of this series. We’ll discuss why you have acne no matter what you do, plus what’s contributing to the acne process so you can start to get to the heart of the problem.

If you want to be notified when the rest of this series is released, then sign up below. (Update – part two now available!)

Much love,

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