Acne affects more than 9% of the world’s population. It’s the eighth most common disease in the world, and it’s one of the top reasons people visit dermatologists.
Although common and treatable, acne still causes embarrassment and, in some cases, pain and discomfort. Understanding its root cause can help you prevent it and take better care of your skin.
What Causes Acne?
Acne develops when sebum (oil), bacteria, and dead skin clog your pores. Doctors still don’t know why this happens, but there are many theories. Diet, lifestyle, and hormones are believed to be big contributors.
Diet and Lifestyle
For many people, the root cause of their acne is an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Many foods can contribute to acne, including:
Research shows that people with acne tend to eat more refined carbohydrates than those who don’t have acne. One study also found that people who regularly eat foods with added sugars had a 30% higher risk of developing acne.
Refined carbohydrates can include:
- Cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, and other sweeteners
- White rice
- Pasta made with white flour
- White bread and crackers
- Sugary drinks, like soda
Researchers believe that the link between acne and refined carbohydrates has to do with their effects on blood sugar and insulin. Refined carbohydrates are easily absorbed by the body, which causes blood sugar and insulin levels to rise.
Insulin also produces androgen hormones, which boost sebum production and increases the risk of acne.
More research is needed, but there’s evidence that low-glycemic diets are associated with less severe acne.
Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products have long been linked to acne, and there is evidence that milk products can make acne more severe.
Researchers are still unsure why dairy products would cause acne, but it’s believed that milk increases insulin levels, which can make acne more severe.
Fast Food and Processed Food
Fast and processed foods are usually high in fat and contain refined carbohydrates that can cause acne.
These foods are also high in sodium. One study found that participants with acne consumed higher amounts of salt daily compared to the control group.
Fast and processed foods can include:
- Hot dogs
- French fries
- Frozen meals and dinners
- Prepared entrees
- Packages snacks
- Junk food
Following a healthy diet and staying active can help keep acne at bay.
Acne can also be caused by hormones, and it can affect anyone of any age, although it’s most commonly associated with puberty. This type of acne tends to be most common in women.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, up to 50% of women between 20-29 have acne and 25% of women between 40 and 49 have acne.
During puberty, the body produces more androgens or male hormones. Androgens cause the body to produce more sebum, which can clog pores and lead to acne.
In adult females, hormonal acne may be attributed to some medical conditions that affect hormone balance. Progesterone may also play a role in acne, although researchers are still unclear about its role.
Acne can be caused by many things, but an unhealthy lifestyle is the root cause for many people. Taking steps to eat a healthy diet and stay active can help prevent and even treat acne.
If you’re dealing with acne and breakouts, don’t hesitate to consult with a dermatologist for professional guidance and treatment.