Roy Spa & Salon - Fairfax VA

What Causes Acne?

Acne affects almost everyone — more than 90% of all adolescents, nearly 50% of all adult women and 25% of all adults. Crossing gender lines, it's one of the most widespread medical conditions in the world. Yet there's still no cure. Not surprisingly, 30% of all dermatologist visits each year are for acne related causes. "Studies indicate about 40% of acne bacteria are resistant to antibiotics," according to Alon Maor, executive vice president of Lumenis’ Aesthetic Division. "And some treatments are now associated with very severe side effects. Our revolutionary solution is designed as an attractive alternative to acne sufferers."

While acne is not curable, it is treatable. We now know more about controlling this condition than ever before. The secret to managing acne is prevention — stopping this condition before it exhibits visual symptoms. Once you have found a treatment that helps you accomplish this, it's important to stick with it. Even after pimples disappear, you will need to continue treatment to keep new blemishes at bay. It's also crucial to begin treatment as soon as the first signs appear; the sooner you address your acne, the less likely you are to experience permanent damage to your skin. Of course, in order to stop acne, we must first understand how it starts.

A blemish begins approximately 2–3 weeks before it appears on your skin's surface. It starts in your sebaceous hair follicles — the tiny holes commonly called pores. Deep within each follicle, your sebaceous glands are working to produce sebum, the oil that keeps your skin moist and pliable. As your skin renews itself, the old cells die, mix with your skin's natural oils, and are sloughed off. Under normal circumstances, these cells are shed gradually, making room for fresh new skin. But sloughing is different for everyone. Some people shed cells evenly while some don't. Uneven shedding causes dead cells to become sticky, clumping together to form a plug — much like a cork in a bottle. This plug, or comedo, traps oil and bacteria inside the follicle.

The plug traps oil and bacteria within the follicle, which begins to swell as your skin continues its normal oil production. Your body then attacks the bacteria with a busy swarm of white blood cells. The whole process takes 2–3 weeks, culminating in a pimple.


For most acne sufferers, the problem begins at puberty, when the body begins to produce hormones called androgens. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge, which is a natural part of the body's development. In acne sufferers, however, the sebaceous glands are over stimulated by androgens, sometimes well into adulthood. Androgens are also responsible for acne flare-ups associated with the menstrual cycle and, on occasion, pregnancy.

Excessive sebum production

When the sebaceous gland is stimulated by androgens, it produces extra sebum. In its journey up the follicle toward the surface, the sebum mixes with common skin bacteria and dead skin cells that have been shed from the lining of the follicle. The sebum and dead skin cells form a kind of paste that clogs the pore and interferes with the normal renewal cycle.


Inside the oil gland lives a bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, (P. acnes for short) It lives in the follicular canals of the sebaceous (oil secreting) glands. This bacteria releases enzymes that break down the natural oils into irritating fatty acids, these enzymes increase the permeability of the follicular canals causing these irritating substances within the pores to leak into surrounding healthy tissue, causing the condition to spread.


When your body encounters unwanted bacteria, it sends an army of white blood cells to attack the intruders. This process creates an inflammatory response. This is what causes pimples to become red, swollen and painful.

Fort Belvoir • 6024 12th Street. Fort Belvoir, VA 22060 · Phone: (703) 781-3880
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