Though the precise cause of acne is still a mystery, we do know enough about acne to identify key factors that bring on breakouts. These acne-affecting factors are:
1. Hormonal activity can cause acne
2. Overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous gland
3. Complications in the shedding of dead skin cells, either on the surface of the skin or inside the pore
4. The buildup of bacteria inside a pore, which leads directly to a pimple
5. (less likely to cause acne) Irritation from cosmetic products, or specific foods or medicines
Scientists don't understand the connection between acne and hormonal activity. Nonetheless, the link between the two has been observed for centuries. During times of high hormonal activity, including puberty, menopause and pregnancy, acne breakouts frequently occur. Other than estrogen replacement therapy for post-menopausal women, there is little that can be done to treat the hormone component of acne.
The clogging of a follicle and subsequent backup of sebum is the fundamental element of acne. Therefore, overproduction of sebum can intensify an outbreak of acne, increasing the size of pimples. Indeed, overproduction of sebum can cause a blockage in a pore if there is too much sebum to freely leave the cell. Some products seek to absorb or dry up this oil and treat acne in this method.
Dead skin cells can clog pores, leading to acne. Ideally, the skin of the face sheds skin cells constantly and the average cell lives for about 12 days. Regular exfoliation, and products that aid in shedding dead skin cells, seek to treat acne in this manner.
Bacterial buildup, leading directly to acne and pimples, is usually the result of a clogged pore. The offending bacterium in this case is known as Propionibacterium acnes, and it finds the inside of the clogged pore as the ideal growth medium. Sometimes, severe acne is treated by the prescription of oral antibiotics, but in most cases this is not necessary.
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