No one factor causes acne. Acne happens when oil (sebaceous) glands are activated at puberty, stimulated by male hormones from the adrenal glands in both boys and girls. Oil is a natural substance which lubricates and protects the skin. Under certain circumstances, cells that are close to the surface block the openings of sebaceous glands and cause a buildup of oil underneath. This oil stimulates bacteria, which live in everyone's skin and generally cause no problems, to multiply and cause surrounding tissues to become inflamed.

Have good hygiene. There is a balance between under-washing and over-washing skin. Under-washing leaves excess skin cells, oil, bacteria, and other debris on the skin, potentially clogging pores and creating blemishes. Over-washing irritates and dries the skin, contributing to excess oil production and more breakouts. Refrain from washing problem areas more than twice a day. When washing, use gentle cleansers with smooth grains and light scrubbing to exfoliate. Avoid products containing large grains, such as almond or apricot shell fragments, that will potentially damage or irritate the skin.
Your body is capable of taking care of your scars and they will get lighter with time. However, if you expose them to the sun, their healing process will slow down and the scars will get darker. So, avoid the sun. If it’s essential to go out in sun, use sunscreen to guard your skin and also cover yourself with hat, umbrella, clothes- whatever you can lay hands on.
Isotretinoin (previously known as Accutane) is the most effective form of acne therapy and the only one that can actually result in a cure for your acne. After finishing a course 80% of people never see acne again. It works so well because it unclogs pores, kills bacteria, reduces oil production and reduces inflammation. It is taken as a daily pill. Isotretinoin has numerous rare and potential side effects that has made it a controversial choice, but for patients with severe acne there is often no other option. Patients taking isotretinoin must also be on highly effective birth control as the drug can cause birth defects. Isotretinoin can only be taken under close medical supervision.
Many theories about diet and acne abound; Anolik is most convinced by the ones surrounding sugar and dairy. “Dermatologists really didn’t believe in all the dietary restrictions for acne, but studies in the past ten years have convinced us a bit,” he says. “Dairy and high-glycemic foods do seem to play a part.” High-sugar diets are known to feed bacteria; any diet that increases overall inflammation in the body doubtlessly plays a part. Specific diets—from Ayurveda to low-carb to veganism—definitely work for some people.

Treatments like radiofrequency microneedling, lasers, and fillers can be effective to treat acne scars, but they can run you hundreds of dollars per treatment. And Hellman says you'll need six to eight treatments and a good amount of time before seeing results. "The process takes a good part of a year," she says. (Her office does offer some package options to help offset some of the cost.)
Try sipping spearmint tea. According to Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, dermatologist and founder of Epionce Skincare, having two cups a day could reduce acne by 25%! Dr. Levin explains this is because spearmint tea has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and reduction in testosterone levels in some limited studies. "While it's unclear how it works, and it's important to note that there are no standardized studies, it is encouraging data that spearmint may have potential as a natural adjunct treatment for hormonal acne," she says.
Hormone changes as an adult. The menstrual cycle is one of the most common acne triggers. Acne lesions tend to form a few days before the cycle begins and go away after the cycle is completed. Other hormone changes, such as pregnancy and menopause, improve acne in some women. But some women have worse acne during these times. Stopping use of birth control pills can play a role as well.
You’re a typical hormonal-acne patient if, well past puberty, you’re breaking out around your period, usually in the jawline area, says Anolik. A consistent routine is key—as is enduring a waiting period of two to three months for said routine to work, he continues: “Even powerful prescription treatments can take a few months to really clear things up, and that’s our biggest challenge. People who get frustrated and don’t stick to their treatments get stuck in a cycle of trying and quitting too early, and feeling like nothing works.”
While acne is a much more visible condition than most, it is important to remember that it is like most diseases, in which early detection can help to mitigate its impact. Bearing that in mind, we have taken the time to put together 10 of the most common causes for acne, so that you can be better informed and potentially avoid some (and only some) of its root causes.

Yes, it is possible to lessen, if not completely eliminate, your acne troubles with food. The key is knowing which foods help -- i.e antioxidant rich, fiber packed, protein loaded, vitamin soaked, healthy fat filled foods (that was quite a mouthful, wasn't it?) -- as well as which foods are really, really BAD for acne; i.e. sugar loaded, preservative packed, salt soaked, unhealthy fat filled foods.
Hypo-pigmentation is characterized by the light spots that result from a lack of melanin. With this type of skin damage, melanocytes are depleted from the injured area or lose their ability to produce melanin. This occurs when healthy skin has been replaced with scar tissue. Because scar tissue has a light pink color, it’s more noticeable on people with darker skin tones.
Shower twice a day. Take a shower or bath in the morning and at night. Alternatively, take a shower in the morning and then again after physical activity, like exercise, or sweating. Wash your entire body with a mild cleanser and use shampoos that limit oil production in your hair. Be sure to always shower after exercising to remove the dead skin cells your body has sloughed off through sweating.
Skin-care geeks rejoiced when the formerly Rx-only Differin gel became available over the counter, in 2016. A prescription-strength retinoid, Differin also affects cell turnover faster than OTC retinols to prevent the formation of new acne. Avram recommends it for those dealing with a lot of small pimples and only the occasional monster cyst. Because Nagler says retinoids “encouraging collagen remodeling,” a well-tolerated formula like Differin can also reduce the appearance of deeper scars.
Rolling scars can look like little saucers, giving the skin a wavy texture. Lasers that resurface the skin are Dr. Karolak's top treatment pick for this type of scar, and Dr. Sobel agrees. "Many scars can be improved with lasers such as the matrix CO2, which remove the outer layers of skin, burning away the scar tissue and stimulate new collagen production," he says. "Non-ablative lasers such as the Fraxel can help activate the production of collagen without damaging the surface of the skin." Keep in mind, that these laser treatments can take a bit of recovery time and require multiple treatments to see results. For a quicker solution, your dermatologist can plump the bowl-like scar with fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, or Bellafill.
"Retinoids work over time by continuously increasing cell turnover which in turn helps fade hyperpigmentation," says Dr. Idriss. Dr. Shah agrees, noting that Retin-A helps with acne marks by causing your skin cells to "divide more rapidly and pushing out cells with discolored pigments." Since retinoids make your skin super-sensitive to the sun, it's best to not only wear SPF, but to also apply a treatment like RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream before you go to bed.
Understanding why you break out requires consideration of a variety of aspects. There are many underlying reasons for acne breakouts, but most pimples are caused by fluctuations in hormone levels. During puberty, the increase in androgens (male hormones) causes the adrenal glands to go into overdrive. This triggers the production of sebum within the sebaceous glands. The more sebum produced, the easier it is for hair follicles to become clogged. When the follicle becomes blocked, oil can’t leave the pore, collecting dead skin cells that would have otherwise sloughed off and hanging onto bacteria called p. acnes. These hormonal fluctuations can arise at other times in life, including menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

Inflammation is the single greatest gauge of scar development. The greater the inflammation on the skin, the more likely scarring is to occur. Deep breakouts that take a long time to heal also increase the chance of scarring. Blackheads, whiteheads, and other non-inflamed blemishes typically don't cause scarring because these types of lesions don't injure skin tissue.


If you wear tight clothing when working out or don heavy equipment for sporting purposes, you may have experienced Acne Mechanica. This type of acne is prevalent among athletes, students, and soldiers, and is directly caused by excessive heat, pressure, and covered skin. It also may be triggered by consistent rubbing of different materials against the skin. This type of acne can be alleviated by changing out of sweaty gear and clothing and showering immediately after a workout. It’s also important to clean gear of acne bacteria and prevent friction by ensuring a comfortably tight fit. If you believe your acne flare up has been caused by a tight or heavy uniform, wearing a clean, cotton t-shirt underneath can help absorb the sweat and keep your skin protected.
Potentially the easiest and cheapest option, "Clay masks help draw out impurities such as dirt and oil at the surface level of the skin which helps with acne breakouts. It will help to dry up the acne," says Dr. Bank. You can usually find a large tube (meant for your entire face) at the drugstore, and using it as a spot treatment will make it last forever. Just look for a mask with kaolin or bentonite clay as the primary ingredient.
Scars that are indented aren't going to go away on their own and most likely need professional treatment. Talk to your derm about laser options, as well as subcision and microneedling—all proven methods to get rid of scarring. But those brown spots left behind once a zit goes away? You can treat them at home if you're diligent. Dr. Schultz says you have to stick to a regimen of daily sunscreen use, exfoliation, and application of a bleaching product that will help remove the excess pigmentation in the skin. Try Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum.
As the name suggests, ice pick scars are very deep acne scars that look like the skin has been punctured with… an ice pick. When the body produces too little collagen in response to an injury, depressed scars such as ice picks can form. “Ice pick scars represent the result of infected sebaceous gland openings on the skin. They are usually the most difficult to correct,” says New York City plastic surgeon Gerald Imber, MD.
Another study focused in on dairy. In 2005, an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology took on milk and milk products. By examining the diets of 47,355 women, researchers observed a significant connection between milk and dairy intake and breakouts. Some researchers believe this is caused by high levels of hormones found in our milk products. Much of the milk consumed is produced by pregnant cows, who pump out progesterone, IGF-1, and other compounds that are then passed into the milk. We may also be subject to Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). These hormones can signal the oil glands to start producing more sebum, which can affect acne. Unfortunately, switching to organic milk doesn’t seem to make a difference, and neither do skim milk options. In fact, skim milk has been observed to worsen the skin, which researches have attributed to lower levels of estrogen and different processing activities. Milk is also known to contain a number of vitamins, some good and some not so beneficial to your skin. Research has shown a correlation between acne and vitamin A in milk. 
There is also a role for Bellafill and other injectable fillers, including fat, for some depressed scars. Bellafill is currently the only filler that’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help raise depressed scars. It packs a one-two punch by adding volume, and also encouraging collagen formation beneath the surface by creating a supportive scaffold. “Bellafill and other injectables can fill in scars but these tend to be better for one scar,” adds New York City facial plastic surgeon Jennifer Levine, MD. Filler results can last up to 18 months. “If you have a cheek full of depressed scars, it’s better to resurface the face with laser, radiofrequency, or another energy-based treatment,” she adds.
It's a myth that tanning clears up your skin. UV rays put you at risk for skin cancer, premature aging, and wrinkles. Don't lie in the sun or use a tanning booth. Also, some commonly prescribed acne medications, including retinoids that go on your skin, can make you more sensitive to damage from UV rays. So always wear sunscreen and limit how much sun you get.
Diet. Studies indicate that certain dietary factors, including skim milk and carbohydrate-rich foods — such as bread, bagels and chips — may worsen acne. Chocolate has long been suspected of making acne worse. A small study of 14 men with acne showed that eating chocolate was related to a worsening of symptoms. Further study is needed to examine why this happens and whether people with acne would benefit from following specific dietary restrictions.
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