As you may have seen on our ‘Acne Types’ page, acne is primarily caused by sticky dead skin cells from the lining of a hair follicle clumping together due to an overproduction of keratin by your skin. These clumps may then mix with the oil being produced by the follicle’s sebaceous gland and form a blockage. Bacteria can then grow in the blockage and lead to inflamed acne.
The overproduction of keratin by your skin cells plays a major role in the formation of acne, as does the amount of oil produced by your sebaceous glands. The more keratin you produce the more likely it is that your dead skin cells will stick together inside your follicles. The more oil that your sebaceous glands produce the sticker your dead skin cells are going to become and the more likely they are to clump and form blockages.
Your DNA is at the core of controlling how much keratin your skin produces and how large and productive your sebaceous glands are. This is why acne often runs in families. Sebaceous glands are also more concentrated in the skin on your face, chest and back. This is why these are the areas where acne most often appears.
Another way in which your DNA can affect your chances of developing acne is through how it controls your hormones. Testosterone and DHT are two hormones that contribute to acne. They leave the blood and bind with hormone receptors in the skin, where they enlarge the sebaceous gland and increase the amount of oil that it produces, which can result in sticker dead skin cells and more follicle blockages.
Testosterone and DHT start to appear in the body at puberty, with males producing more than females. This is why acne breakouts tend to start occurring in the teenage years and boys tend to be more affected. Although, as females go through their menstrual cycles the balance of hormones in their bodies change. This is why women tend to be affected by acne more than men throughout their adult lives.
It is important to know that hormones leave the blood when they bind with hormones receptors in the skin. Therefore, blood tests will not always show elevated hormone levels as many of the hormones may no longer be present in the blood.