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.


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.
8. You can't stop picking at your pimples. It's tempting in the moment, but it's never a good idea to play dermatologist, because it's impossible to pick your own pimple and not make a red mark that could turn into a scar. Even worse, when you try to press the plug or oil or puss out of your pore, you run the risk of pushing the bacteria deeper or spreading it around underneath your skin, multiplying your pimples.

When it comes to skincare, we often put so much attention on the outside that we forget about our insides. Once upon a time, a common acne myth was that French fries and chocolate were to be avoided at all costs if you wanted clear skin. Now we know those foods don’t necessarily cause acne, but some foods do have properties that can trigger breakouts.


To get rid of acne, wash your face with a pH balanced cleanser twice a day to eliminate acne-causing bacteria. You should also exfoliate your face at least once a week with a physical or chemical exfoliant which will remove dead skin cells that clog pores. Applying a benzoyl peroxide cream to your acne before you go to bed can also help get rid of breakouts.
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.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that causes chronic inflammation (gastritis) of the inner lining of the stomach, and also is the most common cause of ulcers worldwide. About 50% of people in the world carries or is infected with H. pylori. Common symptoms of H. pylori infection are occasional abdominal discomfort, bloating, belching or burping, and nausea and vomiting. H. pylori infection is difficult to erdicate, and treatment is with two or more antibiotics.
Rosacea may affect the eyes. Not everyone with rosacea has eye problems. A complication of advanced rosacea, known as ocular rosacea, affects the eyes. About half of all people with rosacea report feeling burning, dryness, and irritation of the tissue lining of the eyes (conjunctivitis). These individuals may also experience redness of the eyelids and light sensitivity. Often the eye symptoms may go completely unnoticed and not be a major concern for the individual. Many times, the physician or ophthalmologist may be the first one to notice the eye symptoms. Untreated, ocular rosacea may cause a serious complication that can damage the cornea permanently damaging vision, called rosacea keratitis. An ophthalmologist can assist in a proper eye evaluation and prescribe rosacea eyedrops. Oral antibiotics may be useful to treat skin and eye rosacea.

Because I'm constantly testing out new products, I don't often end up with "empties" (as in, products so good you've emptied out the bottle). However, I loved Sunday Riley's Good Genes so much I literally twisted the pump off and stuck my finger in it to try and get every last bit. The magic potion's main ingredient is lactic acid, which exfoliates away dead skin cells — key for clearing pores, fading scars, and revealing fresh skin on the surface.
This might annoy your mom, but using your fingers to chat could save your skin. Just think of all those oils, all that bacteria and all those germs on your iPhone. When you hold it up to your face, it’s a little like rubbing your cheek on a New York City sidewalk. {Shudder.} When you need to talk, wipe your phone with a cleansing wipe or go hands-free.
According to dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, some scars are thick, raised hypertrophic scars that stick out above the skin; others are keloid, which are scars that have over-healed, and manifest as dense, rubbery skin tissue. Then, there are atrophic scars that appear as depressions in the skin — they're the most challenging to treat. The three main categories of atrophic scars are:
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.
The superhero mineral can help combat bacteria that lead to breakouts, calm inflammation, and get that oil production under control, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. To get your fill, eat a steak for lunch, pop some pumpkin seeds for a snack, then slurp down some oysters during happy hour.
Our second primary treatment, the Icon Laser, offers patients the best results for smoother skin. Laser therapy breaks up the scar with laser light. It punches holes in the collagen without ever piercing the skin. Because it doesn’t break the skin, recovery tends to be quicker after this treatment. Also, lasers penetrate deep into the skin causing long-lasting results.
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"If you occupy the area [under the skin] with a cyst, it destroys fat around it. Once the cyst goes away, the loss causes indentation," Dr. Karolak explains. A boxcar scar is a depression that has hidden scar tissue, which acts like an accordion pulling the scar downward. Subsicion is one solution for these deeper scars. Subsicion uses a sharp needle to go under the surface and break up that scar tissue. Then, you can fill it in with fillers made specifically for acne scars like Bellafill. Or you can do a fat transfer. "One of my favorite treatments for volume loss is fat transfer, which allows me to take inject a patient's own body fat instead of synthetic filler," says Dr. Karolak. Another treatment for boxcar scars is punch excision where the indented area of the scar is removed and the edges are pulled together with a suture. These treatments are often followed up with a collagen-boosting laser treatment.

6. You're a make out bandit and your boyfriend has a beard. Sure, some dudes look hot with a beard (i.e. Ryan Gosling in The Notebook) or even a five o'clock shadow, but your BF's facial hair isn't doing your pretty face any favors when it comes to breakouts. So what gives? Well, as you and your guy hook up, your smooth face rubs against his hairy one, creating friction, which causes his prickly hair to stimulate oil production on your face, causing blemishes and even beard burn. (Tip via Jeanine Downie, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey.)
While over-the-counter products don’t treat the hormonal component of acne, salicylic acid—a.k.a. willow bark, a.k.a. what aspirin is made of—addresses all other aspects involved in a breakout. “It works,” says Anolik, who recommends using salicylic acid-based products in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide preparations that target acne bacteria with greater strength. Benzoyl peroxide can definitely cause dryness and irritation; if you decide not to use it, know that you’ve got to be even more vigilant about the bacteria on your skin, so cleanse and treat more often. Tea-tree oil preparations like Tammy Fender’s Clarifying Dermagel ($72, goop.com) help. Burt’s Bees Natural Solutions Acne Spot Treatment ($10, burtsbees.com) combines tea tree and salicylic acid for powerful (yet easy on skin) results.
Not that you needed an excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly, but if a pimple should threaten to ruin your evening out, reach for the Champagne. Its tartaric acid (found in grapes) is said to not only ease acne, but also to contain anti-aging properties. So, soak up a cotton pad with your champs, and apply it to the infected area (it won’t hurt to rub it on your whole face, either). High-class problems? We’ll drink to that!

Take an extra five minutes before hopping on the treadmill to completely wash your face and remove your makeup to minimize the risk of breakouts. "Sweat is released through visible pores in the skin," says dermatologist Dr. Janelle Vega. "When makeup covers those pores, that barrier doesn't allow the sweat to make it to the surface of the skin, which can lead to clogged pores. The trapped debris and bacteria are a perfect breeding ground for acne bumps and zits."
One study that gained a lot of traction in the acne vs. food debate appeared in the Archives of Dermatology in 2002.  This research was based on the study of 115 people in Eastern Paraguay and 1,200 individuals in Papua New Guinea. The individuals in this study lived on a diet of self-raised lean meats and fresh plant foods, and scientists were astonished to record not a singular case of acne in either population. Based on this evidence, researchers concluded that the standard Western diet composed largely of starches and refined sugars might be a culprit between the high rates of acne in the Western world.
Dilute white vinegar facial soaks or cleansing daily or weekly using approximately 1 part regular table vinegar to 6 parts water may be helpful. Vinegar helps as a natural disinfectant and can help decrease the number of yeasts and bacteria on the skin. Since vinegar may flare rosacea in some people, try a small test area before applying to the entire face.
"Hyperpigmentation is an increase of melanin, which is the substance that colors the skin," says Dr. Sobel. Hyperpigmentation often clears up on its own. However if you want to speed up the process, you can use topical treatments with ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and kojic acid, which can help brighten skin overall. We like Sunday Riley Sleeping Night Oil ($105, sephora.com) and InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum ($17, amazon.com). The most important thing is to stay out of the sun to keep the dark spots from getting even deeper in color.
Scars (permanent): People who get acne cysts and nodules often see scars when the acne clears. You can prevent these scars. Be sure to see a dermatologist for treatment if you get acne early — between 8 and 12 years old. If someone in your family had acne cysts and nodules, you also should see a dermatologist if you get acne. Treating acne before cysts and nodules appear can prevent scars.
Rosacea is a skin disease that causes redness of the forehead, chin, and lower half of the nose. In addition to inflammation of the facial skin, symptoms include dilation of the blood vessels and pimples (acne rosacea) in the middle third of the face. Oral and topical antibiotics are treatments for rosacea. If left untreated, rhinophyma (a disfiguring nose condition) may result.
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