What Causes Acne?

What Causes Acne?

Published: 4th January, 2023 in: Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become blocked. It is most frequently seen among teenagers, however, it can affect people of all ages. Although it usually disappears over time, acne can cause a lot of stress for those affected and often leads to low self-esteem. 

But what causes acne? In our article, we’ll discuss what acne can look like, the reasons why it might occur, and debunk some common myths about the condition.

What is Acne?

Sebaceous glands are tiny glands found near the surface of your skin. The glands are attached to hair follicles and lubricate the hair by producing an oily substance called sebum. With acne, the glands begin to produce too much sebum, which mixes with dead skin cells and plugs the follicle. 

Symptoms of Acne

Acne will usually appear on the face, chest, forehead, upper body, and shoulders, as these areas of skin have the most oil glands. 

The severity can vary, and can come out in the following symptoms:


If the plugged follicle is close to the surface of the skin, it bulges outwards, which creates a whitehead.


The plugged follicle can also be open to the skin, which creates a blackhead.

Inflammatory Lesions

Harmless bacteria that live on the skin can contaminate and infect the plugged follicles, which can cause papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts. This type of acne is more likely to cause scarring.


Papules are small, red, raised bumps that are caused by inflamed or infected hair follicles.


Pustules are small red pimples that have pus at their tips.


Nodules are solid lumps that develop beneath the surface of your skin, and they can often be painful.


Cysts are large lumps beneath your skin that contain pus and are usually painful.

Main Causes of Acne


Acne can run in families, so if your parents had acne, you could also develop it. Studies have found that if both your parents had acne, you're more likely to get acne at an early age, and if both parents had adult acne, you're more likely to develop adult acne.


Acne in teenagers can be caused by increased levels of testosterone, which occurs during puberty. The sebaceous glands are sensitive to hormones, so it's thought that increased levels of testosterone cause glands to produce too much sebum.

Certain Medications

Medications containing ingredients like lithium (which is used to treat depression and bipolar disorder), as well as steroid medicines and some drugs used to treat epilepsy, have also been known to contribute to acne.

Changes in Hormone Levels

Women are more likely to have adult acne than men, and it's thought that this is caused by changes in hormone levels at certain times. These times include during periods, pregnancy, and if a woman has polycystic ovary syndrome.


Smoking can affect a lot of your body's organ systems, including your skin. It has been linked to causing or making acne worse in older people.

Acne Myths

Although acne is a common condition, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding it. 

These factors, for example, have been found to have little effect on acne:

Chocolate and greasy food - so far, there’s no research to suggest certain foods cause acne. However, it’s recommended that you eat a balanced, healthy diet for your overall health.

Poor hygiene - most triggers of acne occur beneath the skin, not on the surface. In fact, washing your face more than twice a day can actually aggravate your skin.

Cosmetic products - most products are now tested, so they don't cause spots (non-comedogenic)

Treatments for Acne

Acne treatment has become increasingly more prevalent, with various gels and creams available that contain benzoyl peroxide. Here at Weldricks Pharmacy, we offer a wide range of brands, so you can be sure to get the best treatment on the market.

Browse our relevant products:

Acne often doesn't have longer-term implications, however, it can result in scarring in more extreme cases. In these instances, more aggressive treatments may be required. Read more on how to get rid of acne scars.

When to See a Doctor

You shouldn't squeeze your blackheads, whiteheads, or spots, as this could actually make symptoms worse and may leave you with scarring. If self-care remedies don't clear your acne, you can book an appointment with your doctor, who can then prescribe stronger medications for you to try. 

If acne persists or is very severe, you might want to seek treatment from a specialist, such as a dermatologist or paediatric dermatologist.

It’s important to be aware that some non-prescription acne lotions can occasionally cause reactions. This type of reaction is quite rare, so it shouldn't be confused with redness or itchiness that may occur in areas where you've applied products. You should seek emergency medical help if after using a skin product you experience:

  • Faintness
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • Tightness of the throat

Browse our Range of Skincare Products

We’ve discussed what causes acne, and the best treatments you can use to try and tackle it. Some causes are unavoidable, and the acne will usually go away on its own over time. However, in some cases, the acne can persist, and you may wish to seek specialist advice.

We offer acne skin care, acne treatments, acne medication, as well as gels and lotions to help you combat your acne and prevent scarring. We also offer a range of other skincare products such as moisturising lotions, facial wipes, and night creams.