The 4 Causes of Acne — And What You Can Do About Them Right Now

No matter the trigger or the type of breakout, your acne is dependent upon 4 underlying factors. Understanding these root causes — and making minor adjustments to your skincare routine as needed — can make a huge impact on your journey to clear skin.


While there is no one acne gene, acne is strongly determined by genetics. Parents can pass on their skin type to their children, which can make them more susceptible to acne. Some families have a hereditary tendency to either overproduce sebum (oil), which can mix with bacteria in pores to create inflammatory acne, or to overproduce dead skin cells which can get clogged in pores. In short, people who have skin that is conducive to acne will pass on this skin to their children who will also be more susceptible to acne. If a parent had bad acne as a child, their children will more likely have acne.


Acne is created when dead skin cells get trapped within the sebum (natural oil) of our skin. Hormones, particularly androgens, trigger increased sebum production in the skin which leads to increased acne breakouts. For this reason, men tend to get acne mainly during the teenage years when hormones are spiking.and adult women can continue to breakout well into their adult years, due to the fluctuating hormone levels associated with their menstrual cycle. Hormonal acne can appear anywhere on the body, and it typically flares up the week before or during your period. To keep your pores from getting clogged with excess oil and other impurities, use a gentle exfoliating cleanser like SLMD’s Salicylic Acid Cleanser followed by a treatment lotion like SLMD’s BP Lotion, to further prevent acne. SLMD’s Sulfur Lotion is another alternative for those sensitive to benzoyl peroxide, that stops the formation of acne-causing bacteria and helps control oil production.


You probably know there are consequences of UV exposure on the skin, but there are various other environmental stressors that can exacerbate your acne. Air pollution can wreak havoc on the skin by increasing skin inflammation and triggering hyperpigmentation. Environmental pollution also exposes the skin to free radicals which contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, leading to sagging and wrinkles. Water quality can also affect the skin. Hard water is known to cause dryness due to the presence of alkaline minerals. If you live in an area with hard water, consistent use of a moisturizer is key! SLMD’s Facial Moisturizer is a great oil-free option to combat dryness and contains antioxidants like vitamin C to keep your skin protected from environmental stressors.


Living a lifestyle that accommodates skin health is more than just building a skincare regimen. Your overall health contributes to your skin health, so factors like stress, hygiene, diet, and heavy products can play a role in promoting acne. 

Stress depresses your immune system which lowers your body's ability to fight inflammation. If you’re anything like us, stress may cause you to start picking at our skin which usually worsens breakouts. Instead of popping your pimples, use a spot treatment like SLMD’s BP Spot Treatment for inflammatory pimples and SLMD’s Salicylic Acid Spot Treatment for noninflammatory pimples.

Maintaining good hygiene is a full body effort, and there are simple steps you can take to prevent breakouts. After you work out or sweat, try not to sit in sweaty clothes for too long. Sweat can make clothes occlusive, meaning they trap sweat, dirt and bacteria by binding to the skin. If you can’t shower right away, spraying SLMD’s Salicylic Acid Body Spray after you sweat will stop the buildup of bacteria between your clothes and skin to combat breakouts. A good body wash with acne-fighting properties is also so important! SLMD’s BP Body Wash is formulated with benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne bacteria that contributes to inflammatory acne.

In terms of your diet, dairy consumption has been linked to acne due the presence of additional hormones.A high-glycemic diet—one with many refined carbohydrates, including sugar— rapidly raises your blood glucose and insulin levels and may lead to more frequent breakouts by causing inflammation and skin stiffness.

Lastly, make sure you’re choosing products formulated with acne-prone and sensitive skin in mind. Heavy products (like your sweaty clothes) can be occlusive. If you’re being exposed to any kind of UV rays (trick question — you definitely are), opt for an oil-free, lightweight sunscreen like SLMD Dual Defender SPF 30, which protects and hydrates your skin in addition to containing powerful antioxidants. Be sure to apply SPF every few hours to protect your skin from the UV rays from the sun or even from the blue light emitting from your screen.

If you don't know where to start in combating these factors, a simple regimen like SLMD's Acne System is a great choice that will get you in the habit of taking care of your skin, morning and night, in just 3 steps!


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