Surprising Acne Causes

A woman looking at her acne in a mirror

Acne can look like inflamed red pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, or a combination of these. Acne forms when pores in the skin become clogged with too much sebum, an oily substance that the body produces to protect the skin. 1 It can affect anyone, but adult acne is significantly more common in women than men. 2 It is widely known that acne can be exacerbated by genetics, diet, oily skin, premenstrual syndrome/hormones (PMS), and environmental factors, but here are a few other common acne causes that you might not expect.

3 Acne Causes That Might Surprise You

Allergies & Food Sensitivities

Some allergies and food sensitivities can cause acne and other skin conditions. This is especially common with dairy sensitivities. 3 While it is generally accepted that what you eat can affect your skin, many people do not think about the possibility of a food sensitivity contributing to acne. In order to determine whether an allergy or food sensitivity is behind your acne, you may want to try an elimination diet.

If you are interested in an elimination diet, speak to a naturopathic doctor first. They can help you make a plan for a safe, healthy elimination diet, and help you target and identify any potential food sensitivities.

Dry Skin

Often when people have acne, they avoid moisturizing products in an attempt to mitigate oiliness and reduce acne, but this can have the opposite effect. Many people with acne assume that their skin is too oily, but acne can also be caused by the use of drying soaps and other products that dehydrate the skin. 4 The buildup of dead skin cells, or dryness leading to decreased effectiveness of the skin as a barrier to infection are two of the causative factors.If you have acne-prone skin, use a hydrating soap or cleanser and follow it with an oil-free moisturizer and balancing toner. Keep in mind that some skincare products contain endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that may impact hormones in the body. Always choose natural products that are free of additives, preservatives, and artificial scents. Read more on dealing with dry skin here.

Hormone Imbalance and PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that can cause ovarian cysts, infertility, and irregular menstruation. 5 PCOS can also cause acne in many people due to the hormonal fluctuations it produces. 6 Because up to 70% of people who have PCOS have not been diagnosed, many people may have PCOS-related acne and not know it. 7 If you have acne coupled with other common PCOS symptoms, such as irregular or painful menstruation, chronic headaches, weight gain, and thinning hair, speak to a healthcare professional to determine whether you may have this condition. 8

In addition to the above surprising acne causes, there are a number of other factors that may contribute to acne and other skin conditions. If you are struggling with pinpointing the cause of your acne, a naturopathic doctor may be able to help you determine the root problem.


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