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Who is affected by acne?

Acne tends to develop during puberty and in most people, it will clear up by your mid-twenties. However, other people can be affected earlier or later in their lives.

It isn’t contagious, so you can not pass it on or catch it from another person.

What causes acne?

Acne is caused when your sebaceous glands become blocked - these are more commonly called hair follicles. This can happen when the glands produce excess oil.

During your teenage years, during puberty, and when acne is most common, you produce a lot more oil than you did as a child due to increased levels of testosterone in your body, which leads to greasier skin.

This oil, called sebum, mixes with dead skin cells that line your pores to cause a blockage. The blockages can lead to whiteheads, blackheads or little pimples.

In more severe cases, the trapped oil can become infected by the bacteria that lives on your skin, normally without causing any harm, which is called propionibacterium acnes, and can cause larger more inflamed spots to develop called papules or pustules. These are the lumpy, pus filled spots that may be sore and tender. If they become severely infected, it can lead to cysts or nodules developing.

Other acne causes

Other things that may lead to acne or make it worse include:

  • Family history - acne may run in families
  • Medications may also cause acne, including anabolic steroids, or phenytoin, which is sometimes prescribed for epilepsy. Your doctor should explain the possible side effects of a medication before prescribing it.
  • The use of cosmetic products can also sometimes be linked to acne - you may be sensitive to some ingredients in cosmetic products.
  • The progestogen only contraceptive pill may cause acne or make it worse.
  • Picking and squeezing spots can cause further inflammation.
  • Fluctuating hormones in women can cause acne.
  • The menopause can lead to acne.
  • Pregnancy means lots of hormonal changes, which can cause acne.
  • Other medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

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