What Causes Acne? – Understanding Acne

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What Causes Acne? – Understanding Acne and Tips for Treatment

What causes acne? You’ve probably heard that chocolate, soft drinks and chips may worsen your breakouts and acne.  So does what you eat actually have an impact on your acne breakouts, white heads and blackheads? Let’s find out if what you eat DOES impact the number of breakouts you have.

What actually IS Acne?

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Acne is one of the most common skin conditions or skin diseases. It is a condition commonly linked with hormonal changes. Hence, acne is quite common in teenagers during key stages of adolescent or early adulthood development that involves hormonal changes. However adults can also develop acne, even later in life.

The great news about acne is that it’s not necessarily a dangerous health condition.  Uncomfortable and annoying, yes, but not damaging. Unless you pick at the pimples or the acne gets infected, both of which can wreak havoc and leave scars.

The worst thing that usually happens with acne, is that you may be left with facial scarring (pitted acne scars) or acne scars on your back or chest – wherever you have, or had, extremely active acne.

How do you recognize breakouts as Acne on your body?

Acne is actually a term commonly used to describe variety of skin blemishes or ‘skin congestion.’

If you have ‘congested’ skin, then acne usually appears in the form of pimples. Most frequently, acne is seen on the face, but it can also appear on your neck, back, chest or shoulders.

Different Types of Acne

We commonly refer to it when we speak about pimples. But there are several TYPES of acne blemishes.

  • Whiteheads are common: they remain under the skin’s outermost layer. If they become angry-looking and infected, or if you pick at them, they can leave pitted types of scars. (Our Dermal Clinicians can help reduce your breakouts.)
  • Blackheads are also common: these appear on the surface of the outer layers of the skin; are turn black due to environmental reactions and hence, are visible – they can also leave indentation types of scars
  • Papules: these appear as small, pinkish bumps on the surface of the skin
  • Pustules: red ‘dots’ that are filled with pus.
  • Nodules: large pimples, embedded deeply into the skin, and sometimes difficult to treat at home – see one of our Dermal Clinicians
  • Cysts. They are also filled with pus and are very painful.

Types of acne pimples. Healthy skin, Whiteheads and Blackheads, Papules and Pustules

What makes acne worse?

With any form of acne, the KEY thing you’ll need to remind yourself to do – is NOT to make it worse.

Most people use the wrong products or wrong approach to acne care.

Sadly, the wrong products – and the wrong approaches – for treating pimples and blackheads may actually worsen the condition, and lead to more flare-ups.

It’s well worth it to investigate the RIGHT products for your skin – but this should be done with a professional trained in skin care and acne treatments, not just by looking at misleading advertisements on the web or in discount chemist stores.

Store bought products for acne are NOT the same as medical-grade cosmeceutical acne products or professional skin care treatments.

You want to be sure to use the right products (cosmeceutical or medical-grade acne treatment products) and investigate the power of light therapies, laser treatments, and skin peels.

Light therapies, skin peels and highly-active ingredients in quality skin care products can do a lot to deter your acne breakouts.

The key is finding the right treatment and the best products that can help get your skin looking great, despite having acne.

But effective acne treatment it requires educating yourself, first, by having a thorough skin assessment with a professional.

What you do at home is as important as what your clinician does for treating acne at the Skin Care Clinic. BOTH are crucial to keep the breakouts, the blackheads and acne pimples at bay.

Can you prevent acne from leaving a scar?

Typically, you can prevent scarring with acne.  It all depends on how you work with the breakouts – do you do the right thing or do you do the wrong thing, and pick at the breakouts, use the wrong products on your skin and otherwise make your breakout even worse?

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IF you are careful and IF you follow your dermatologists or dermal clinician’s instructions during a breakout, the outcome of scarring can often be readily avoided.

So What causes Acne?

Acne is commonly associated with hormones and sebum production; these change throughout your lifetime and are part of the process of growing older, or becoming an adult.

SEBUM and Acne: When reaching puberty, the human body starts to release more of an oily substance called sebum. Excess sebum is often released through glands on the face, shoulders, back and chest.

This element – sebum – is oily and viscous, and hence is often responsible for blocking the small pores of your skin.

The blockage then allows bacteria to grow. This process – the blocking of the pore (gland) and the oily sebum attracting bacteria – can lead to acne inflammation and skin breakouts.

This is why acne usually happens to adolescents, even though people of all ages get acne.

As in the case of many skin reactions, even the best skincare experts don’t always know exactly how to explain acne and who gets it or why – e.g., what stimulates it for each person.

Even though this is a normal, biological process for the human body to reach adulthood, other factors that interact with one another may end up encouraging the development of acne.

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Some factors associated with skin that is prone to acne breakouts or blackheads

The skin, as an organ, has multiple influences affecting how it looks and functions over time. This includes acne, oiliness or dryness, and even wrinkles.

Factors that may impact your likelihood to get acne include:

  • Heredity
  • Hormone changes
  • Periods
  • Pregnancy
  • Oily cosmetic products
  • Sebum production

The impact of nutrition on Acne.

Acne: Does what you EAT actually matter – or is that just a myth?

Like all other factors believed to have an influence on the development of acne for any given individual, FOOD and DRINK choices remain a controversial subject as to how much these impacts acne, if at all.

Many people believe that WHAT we eat or drink directly impacts our skin condition, while others don’t see a link between the two.

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Experts on the impact of nutrition on health and body functioning, especially nutritionists, have also debated the subject of acne-and-food-choices for decades.

Even though there is NOT a definitive medical study stating that diet causes – or doesn’t cause – acne, that doesn’t mean we are not aware of the fact that certain food products are better for skin than others.

Some foods or beverages are likely worse for skin, especially skin that is prone to acne.

Here’s why our Dermal Clinicians at Coco Ruby Skin believe that what you eat and drink CAN matter for acne. They also point out that the best treatment regimes are those that take a holistic approach and involve in-clinic treatments, the right products for home use, good health habits, and good skin hygiene.

“All of the things you do that influence your skin, whether that’s what you wash your face with each night – or whether or not you’re getting good sleep and nutrition, are bound to have some impact on your system functioning. And your skin is your largest organ, so it’s unlikely that nutrition has ZERO impact on your skin health,” says one of our leading Melbourne Dermal Clinicians for acne treatments.

“You want to be sure to avoid products that irritate the skin,” “There are some very cheap and skin-damaging scrubs on the market, which can make your acne worse.”

Medical Voices on What Causes Acne

There are voices in the medical community that say that acne, even though it is a hormonal consequence, can be avoided by choosing a better life style.

Medical professionals in this camp say that being healthy starts with our diet – what we eat and drink.

Now, most of us aren’t saints when it comes to our eating and drinking habits, so there’s usually room to improve your vegetables and fruit intake on a daily basis to meet the recommended daily intake of these food sources (so long as you’re not allergic).

  • Some nutritionists have even stated they feel acne on the skin relates to a type of internal food allergy response.
  • Others have claimed that acne is caused by the consumption of dairy, high-glycemic carbohydrates or saturated fats; in other words, everything that many of us normally eat.

The bottom line? Nutrition likely impacts your skin health, hence may impact acne – even if it’s never been consistently or distinctively proven.

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How what you eat impacts your skin health can also be different for different people – genetics often has something to do with your skin responses, including acne.

In summary, we don’t know for sure if food causes acne, or even makes it worse.

But our nutrition is likely to have SOME effect on ALL of our organs – including our largest one, our SKIN or protective DERMAL layers.

But what many of us can do, while waiting for a clearer answer from the scientific community, is to try to eat healthier foods and make sure we’re also drinking plenty of water.

Adequate water intake is definitely going to help your system run smoother, from many perspectives, including often helping your skin to look better.

What makes up healthy foods?

Read about some nutritional information and daily nutrition intake recommendations from the Mayo Clinic.

What Causes Congested Skin and What Contributes To Acne Breakouts?

Clogged pores, congested skin, blackheads and pimples are some of the most common skin problems people want help to treat. There are a number of contributors to problem skin.

With the right treatments and prevention, however, there is a lot you can do to keep those pimples and blackheads at bay.

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Why do we struggle with skin congestion?

Skin is your largest organ, and like ALL of your organs, is impacted by your lifestyle as well as your genetics (inherited traits).

Healthy skin requires a healthy nutritional plan and overall healthy living. Even then, sometimes pollution, over-active oil glands, genetics and even hormones can leave you with breakouts.

So you’ll end up with breakouts over time because environmental factors AND your lifestyle combine to cause a number of skin ailments.

Everything you eat or drink, everything you put on your skin (skin care products or even clothing or perfumes) and every activity you do will tend to have some impact on your skin.

Often, there is the misconception that congested skin only occurs among young adults, because their skin is more prone to acne and other issues. However, this is not true at all.

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Skin can get congested at any stage of life and therefore, you should watch out for its signs and symptoms.

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What causes skin congestion and pimples?

Pimples and blackheads form when the skin becomes congested (or inflamed).

Skin congestion is more commonly termed “having blocked pores.” That’s because the small openings in your skin (pores) becomes clogged OR fail to work properly to release your skin’s natural oil production (and some skins produce more sebum, or oil, than others).

Sebum is produced by your sebaceous glands.

Sebum helps to keep your skin and hair adequately moisturized.

Whilst sebum (essentially your skin’s natural oils) might seem problematic in terms of keeping your pimples at bay, sebaceous glands & sebum production are necessary to help keep your skin adequately protected as well as keeping moisturised.

Without enough sebum, your skin would fail to protect your underlying tissues or help fight off bacteria.

What is sebum?

Sebum is a light yellow, oily-feeling substance that is secreted by your sebaceous glands. Sebum is made up of a variety of substances that healthy dermal tissue produces naturally, including triglycerides, free fatty acids, wax esters, squalene, cholesterol esters and cholesterol.


how pimples form

Seeing your way CLEAR of skin congestion: blocked pores

Congestion thereby occurs when your skin’s natural sebum (oils) gets blocked from being fully released from your glands (pores). This often occurs when debris (topical pollutants) such as makeup, smoke pollution or dirt, grime and bacteria – mixes with sebum and gets ‘trapped’ in your skin’s pores.

It can be easier to prevent than to treat, but some people do have skin that is more prone to acne than others. Often, this has a genetic component – but you’d be surprised to learn that you can help reduce outbreaks by using the right medical-grade products and nutritional approaches.

So the best option to prevent breakouts is to take a few steps to actually prevent the occurrence of congested skin.

For prevention, you need to understand the different causes of congested skin and why it might affect your skin.

Let’s look at a few of the most common causes of congested skin:

Decreased Cellular Turnover can lead to skin congestion over time:

  • Skin cells don’t live forever – they slough off (expire) and regenerate
  • The outer layer of the skin is nearly always in the process of being shedded
  • The expired or sloughed off skin cells sometimes pile up on the skin’s outer surface

The process of skin renewal: how build up of dead skin cells can lead to clogged pores and pimples

  • This process happens every several weeks (or several months) when you’re relatively young and healthy, and then slows down as you age.
  • During your skin’s renewal cycle, your dead skin cells get pushed out
  • New, fresh skin cells then take their place

So long as the dead skin cells don’t excessively build up on your skin’s surface, you’ll tend to have vibrant, smooth looking skin

How pimples form: clogged pores and acne skins

  • But if your older skin cells are sluggish in turning over – or if these dead skin cells and other debris builds up on your skin’s surface – this often results in clogged pores and congested-looking skin
  • Skin cells can also build up and clog pores if you have a poor diet
  • So it’s important you stay healthy and maintain a good cleansing routine to remove old skin cells – but for some people, using the WRONG products (or the wrong way) or non-clean face washers or being overly aggressive – can worsen breakouts and aggravate acne
  • So you need to be sure you understand what GENTLE exfoliation routine you’ll need
  • And be sure to find out what specific products will best suit your skin – this is best discovered by consulting with an experienced skin care professional


Excessively Oily Skin is also a factor in skin congestion

People who have to deal with excessive sebum production on their skin are ALSO at a much higher risk of getting whiteheads and blackheads on their skin.

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Here are some additional factors that can impact your skin.

Acne (Condition): Congestion and Acne Breakouts

Acne is a fairly common skin condition. Acne can impact the appearance of your face (resulting in bumps and redness or a chronic state of skin inflammation) as well as congested-looking skin and even acne scars over time.  (Laser treatments may help reduce your acne scars – but it’s far better to prevent them if you can).

Excessive Sebum and Oil

If you have naturally oily skin or have excessive sebum production – you can also suffer from congested skin and frequent breakouts.  This is because if sebum ends up clogging your pores, it can also trap bacteria. Pollutants and bacteria reactions result in skin congestion.


Some cosmetics products contain ingredients which are not friendly to acne-prone skin and may contribute to reactive skin conditions such as acne. Be sure to use only high-quality makeup (mineral makeup may be the go!) that your skin care professional has recommended.

Using cheap makeup or very old makeup (contaminated with bacteria) might make your skin congestion and acne breakouts worse.

Environmental Factors:

  • Pollution, dust & dirt can also lead to skin congestion and clogged pores or redness
  • Be sure to take good care of your skin, especially if you live in an area with high levels of air pollution.


Toxins can also affect the function of your skin and your overall skin health.  They can lead your skin to age prematurely or appear dull.

Contact Our Dermal Clinician’s Today

If you want to get rid of congested skin, send an enquiry form today.  Or phone and ask for our Dermal Clinician team on (03) 8849 1400.

We offer a range of treatments to help remedy congested skin as well as treat acne.

We also offer surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures for anti-ageing and feature enhancement.

Our highly qualified and experienced Team can provide you a custom skin-care consultation for your skin needs – so you can attain fresher, younger, and more attractive facial skin!

5 Myths or False Beliefs about Causes of Acne

  1. Poor hygiene causes Acne. MYTH: but it still matters what you do and how you do it in relation to NOT making your skin look better, not worse.

Because the formation of sebum is a natural process, acne is not necessarily related to hygiene.  Cleaning excessively or using harsh products during a flare up might make things even worse.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cleanse at all or consider your hygiene. Your skin needs balance. It also needs fresh, clean washers EVERY day so you’re not using a washer with bacteria.

The same goes with changing pillowcases daily, if you have acne.  To limit introducing more bacteria, sleep on clean pillowcases at least every 2nd day, especially if you release a lot of sebum (your face gets very oily) a lot at night.

Also, try using fresh face washers cleansed with non-allergenic, non-fragrance-laden cleansers – or try using soft, disposable cloths – when cleansing with the acne-treatment cleanser selected for YOUR skin condition by a Dermatologist or Dermal Clinician.

  1. Stress causes Acne. MYTH: However stress CAN change your hormone levels and other body balances and may impact your skin’s healing capacities.

Even though it is a powerful trigger in the body, stress may not cause acne and the appearance of pimples on healthy skin.  Stress MAY temporarily make the breakout worse if it is already there.

  1. Acne is contagious. MYTH.

Even though acne is linked with bacteria, and bacteria doesn’t mind getting ‘shared’ when it can – with acne, the bacteria is proliferating within the skin.

Hence acne can’t be transmitted by air or by physical contact.

  1. Acne will go away by getting sun exposure or getting a tan. MYTH: plus you’ll age your skin prematurely and even risk getting melanoma.

The sun is a false friend in fighting against acne.

It is true that the UV rays can sometimes help dry up pimples, initially. That may seem like an early improvement, but it can also create a conditions encouraging the formation of comedones (pimples) by clogging the pores.

  1. Treatments can’t help you with acne. MYTH. There are some very effective ways to treat your acne – but you need a professional to help guide you to what they are.

Treatments actually CAN do a lot to curb acne and help you get your skin looking its best.

But the proper treatment for your skin and your type of acne can only be determined by your skin care professional – not a friend, not Dr Google and not the clerk behind the chemist counter.

The appropriate treatments for your acne condition can not only prevent scarring, it can help clear your skin of pimples and blackheads, as well as deter inflammation.

And best of all, it can save you from taking dangerous oral medications that may have highly damaging side effects.


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Find out more by phoning our Dermal Team on (03) 8849 1400 or sending in an enquiry form today.

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