What's Causing Your Acne?

  • 4 min read

Acne. It’s the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting nearly 60 million teenagers and adults alike - a staggering statistic with no signs of plateauing.

Problematic skin is often attributed to various different factors. Some people tend to associate blemishes with dirt and oil. Others blame hormones for those reoccurring monthly breakouts.

While we typically assume acne is caused by one single overarching factor, there are, in fact, four different causes. Certainly, it’s important to know the primary factors, but it’s equally as important to understand that a blemish or breakout is the result of a combination of these four. Take one of these causes out of the equation and you’re in the clear. Literally.

Let’s take an in-depth look at these different factors so you can better understand how to take practical, preventative measures against future breakouts for clearer, healthier-looking skin.

1. Propionibacterium acnes

More commonly referred to as p. acnes, this scientific term is a common bacterium that lives on the surface of every skin type. While the term bacterium is inherently equated with negative connotation, we actually all have it - every single one of us - despite whether we have acne-prone skin or a flawless complexion. But, it’s not the presence of the bacteria that is the problem. The problem stems from the way the skin reacts to the bacteria when it becomes trapped in a clogged pore and is given the opportunity to thrive. Although p. acnes is normal and harmless (remember, we all have it), the skin perceives it as threat – much like a disease - and overreacts. And although eliminating the bacteria will not solve the problem of acne in its entirety, it is helpful to eliminate as much of the bacteria as possible in order to help prevent a breakout from occurring.

2. Clogged Pores

Every 28 days, the surface of your skin completely turns over, shedding the very top layer of skin cells to reveal a healthier layer underneath. What exactly does this mean? Think of this way - new skin cells are consistently replacing old skin cells. While this is a normal process of the body’s chemistry, if these dead skin cells remain on the surface, they can settle into the hair follicles (the openings of your pores), clogging them and creating a perfect environment for the p. acnes to grow and flourish. When the pores remain clear, breakouts are less likely to develop.

With that said, let’s now address two key ingredients that are effective in keeping your pores clean and clear.

1. First, due to its powerful exfoliating properties, salicylic acid naturally breaks down and helps release away those dead skin cells. This is a significantly better alternative to rough scrubs that can strip the skin of its natural moisture and cause micro-irritation, which can actually make breakouts worse.

2. Secondly, using a retinol accelerates cell turnover which simultaneously reduces the chance that those dead skin cells will have time to gather and clog your pores. In fact, when both salicylic acid and retinoids are implemented into your skincare routine, you significantly decrease your chance of developing acne.

And the best news? Our Acne Clearing System happens to be formulated with both, a feature unique to MD Complete!

3. Sebum

Sebum is the oil secreted by the skin’s sebaceous glands. Although oil is typically perceived as the “evil empire” on skin, it is actually essential in maintaining a healthy moisture barrier for a naturally hydrated complexion. Additionally, it’s an important pathway for the nutrients to be carried from the belly to the surface of the skin. When the skin is stripped of its natural oils, often from sun exposure, products with harsh ingredients (toners, exfoliants, AHA’s), and/or over cleansing, it stimulates the production of excess sebum - more oil. To support a healthy balance of sebum, make sure you’re using the right products for your skin that will target your problem areas while sustaining and protecting its natural moisture barrier.

4. Inflammation

Inflammation is, perhaps, the most historically underestimated (and often unmentioned) of the four causes. In fact, today, dermatologists now recognize acne and breakouts as an inflammatory disease. Inflammation occurs because the skin perceives the p. acnes (bacteria growth) as a dangerous threat – a disease – and triggers an immediate inflammatory response. This response can be visibly seen in the form of a breakout and/or redness, or tangibly felt as the physical bump on your skin and the pain you may experience from the breakout.

The best acne-clearing systems will not only help clear the skin, but also help calm it. This calming quality will improve the skin’s response, making it less likely to over-react by triggering a massive inflammatory response. At MD Complete, through rigorous research, we’ve discovered the use of naturally-derived nutrients and vitamins significantly help calm the skin and help our clients maintain a much healthier-looking complexion.

And One Final Consideration

When you think about the causes of breakouts (and potential skincare solutions), it’s important to understand what’s happening below the surface of the skin and recognize the life-cycle of a breakout.

A breakout typically begins to develop 7-14 days before it surfaces the skin – this is why consistency is key, and that even when your skin has cleared, you should continue to use your products daily. You can clear the breakouts you see, but if you don’t continue using your products, new breakouts will only continue to develop over time.

Once a breakout has made its debut on your face, it’s too late to take preventative action for that particular breakout. So, we advise our patients and clients to think of their skincare as a two-step process.

1. First, clear these visible blemishes with topical treatments that contain acne clearing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, which is the primary ingredient in our Breakout Treatment.

2. Next, and equally as important, prevent future inflammatory-caused breakouts by incorporating a probiotic into your diet, especially during periods of stress because this will successfully address the root of the cause and balance the bacteria in your stomach.


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