What causes acne and pimples?

Acne is a skin concern that can affect males and females at any age. It can be a stressful and debilitating condition that contributes to low self-esteem, mental health issues and on top of all that, may cause permanent scarring!

Anyone who suffers from acne has probably heard the explanation that it is “just hormones, and you’ll grow out of it”. But are hormones really the only culprit?

In this article you will learn the differences between the different types of pimples and how to know if you have acne. As well as the key factors that contribute to the development and aggravation of acne, including hormones (of course!) genetics, stress, environment, diet and the right skincare routine for you.

So, what exactly is a pimple?

To understand what a pimple is first you need to know some basic science about your skin.

Your face is covered in pores, which are essentially tiny holes. These pores provide openings to follicles, which are made up of one hair and one sebaceous gland per follicle. The sebaceous glands produce sebum (oil) that travel up the hair and onto the skin.

Sebum has two main functions:

1) Provides a waterproof barrier, that stops too much water from entering or exiting the skin.

2) Guards against bacteria, fungus and other pollutants from entering the skin.

There is a delicate balance between sebum and your skin, if there is too little sebum your skin will feel dry and flaky, if there is too much you will get clogged pores.

Pimples form when sebum cannot escape the pore, and bacteria is present.

The most common form of pimples are “whiteheads" which are closed to the surface, and "blackheads" which are open to the surface, allowing oxygenation of the puss/bacteria that gives the appearance of the black colour.

Both whiteheads and blackheads are classified as comedones, whilst other types of pimples include:

  • Papules: small, swollen, red bumps that are not filled with pus (these are often caused by infected or inflamed follicles).

  • Pustules: small, swollen, red bumps that are filled with pus.

  • Nodules: hard, swollen bumps under the skin, which are often quite painful.

  • Cysts: large, pus-filled lumps that occur under the skin, and are often quite painful

  • If you are repeatedly experiencing pimples, you may actually have “acne”

Anatomy of a pimple

What is acne?

Acne can be defined as an increase in cellular proliferation and sebum production, and is often initiated by changes in hormones.

Acne is classified as either inflamed which is often quite red, painful and swollen or non-inflamed where the is no redness or swelling of lesions for example blackheads and congested skin.

What is the direct causes acne?

Acne occurs when there is as problem in the sebum release process, for example.

1) Too much sebum is released into the follicle.

2) There is a build-up of dead skin cells in the follicle.

3) There is bacteria present in the follicle (most commonly P. acnes bacteria).

What are the underlying causes of acne?

There is no one size fits all cause of acne as each individual is a complex case of multi-factorial influences including hormones, genetics, stress, environment and nutrition.

Hormones can play a major role in acne


Our body is constantly balancing our hormones so that it can function at its best.

However it doesn’t always win the battle for example, during puberty, the menstrual cycle and pregnancy our hormones are constantly fluctuating, and many people experience acne at these times.

This is mainly a result of increased levels of testosterone.

Which the body tries to get rid of through flushing it out of the pores. This increases sebum production and yes you know what happens next…

Testosterone also effects the development of skin cells inside of the follicles, which also contributes to pore congestion.


If acne runs in your family there is an increased chance that you will experience it.

Genes that we inherit from our parents influence how sensitive our body is to different hormones.

For example, testosterone present in someone with parents who did not have acne will have little to no effect on their skin’s sebum production.

While the same levels in someone with acne-prone skin will result in and too much sebum and ultimately acne!

Genetics influences your skin’s inflammatory response to unwanted bacteria also for example, people who experience acne often have increased inflammatory responses to P. acnes bacteria.


While, doctors are not 100% sure of the mechanisms that cause acne to occur in overly-stressed people or worsen already present acne, they do recognize the correlation between these factors.

There is a theory that as sebum producing glands do contain stress hormone receptors, they may be stimulated when they are in contact with hormones released during times of stress.


Pollution is made up of chemicals in our environment that are so small they can easily fit inside the pores on your skin.

A build-up of these chemicals can easily clog the follicle shaft and pore, harbouring bacteria and preventing sebum from being released.

Toxins and other pollutants can enter the body in many ways, but as the skin is the body’s largest organ of elimination, they are often released through the pores, further resulting in congestion.

Diet and Nutrition

Following a low-glycemic diet may reduce acne because this diet eliminates spikes in your blood sugar.

When your blood sugar spikes, it causes inflammation throughout your body which cause your body to make more sebum.

While more research is needed to know whether certain foods can worsen acne, there is something that you can do right now if you think your diet affects your acne.

Pay attention to your breakouts, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does any food or beverage seem to trigger a breakout or worsen your existing acne?

  2. If something seems to trigger a breakout, what happens when you don’t have that food or beverage for a day, a week, or a month?

It’s best to eat whole, nutritious foods including vegetables, fruit, whole grains and starchy vegetables, healthy fats, legumes, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices and unsweetened beverages.

Refined foods, and high-sugar foods and beverages should be avoided.

Research indicates that supplementing your diet with certain vitamins, minerals, and other compounds may ease acne.

It is important to get professional advice on these however as self-medicating with supplements is not advisable and can contribute to health complications.

It is important to eat a balanced diet in alignment with the Australia Food Guidelines and talk to a Dietitian or Medical Healthcare Professional if you need help managing your nutritional requirements.


Skincare is essential in treating acne. Work with your skin care expert to find the best products for your individual needs, as some products may work well on certain skin types but not others.

While there are several ways to try and manage acne, the two most common ingredients used topically are Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) and Salicylic acid. DMK incorporates both in the fight against acne.

However, products alone will not get rid of acne, it is important to have a customised plan of targeted skin revision treatments to give your skin the boost that it needs to regenerate and heal.

Regardless of what causes acne, for those who suffer from it, it can be an absolute nightmare.

There is often a combination of underlying causative factors that change with each individual and while diet may play a role in causing your breakouts or worsening your acne, keeping your skin clear requires more than a diet change.

It is important to consider lifestyle factors that may be aggravating acne including smoking which is significantly associated with acne, along with countless other health issues!

As is drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough sleep, and generally just being stressed.

If you are struggling with Acne and would like guidance from THE ACNE EXPERTS call Quay Day Spa today 6122 0155 and book in for an obligation free skin consultation.

Our Nurse Practitioner and Integrated Medical practitioner along with our team of paramedical skin technicians can help you manage your skin issues from the inside of the body to the outside, reduce the breakouts and figure out the right skin care plan for you that will give you lasting results!

Quay Day Spa works in collaboration with Your Health Hub Medical and Allied Health Centre as a complete healthcare destination in Bellerive Quay.





Follow Us
  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Grey Instagram Icon

"Had a beautiful facial and lash tint today. I was so relaxed at the end I didn’t think I would be able to drive home. Highly recommend."

- Melanie

"I was ready to give this place five stars after my first massage and have now gone back numerous times for brows, lashes and tan. Loved it every time and can’t recommend them enough! All of the therapists are lovely, especially Emily who went out of her way to make sure I was happy with my treatment! "

- Fern

"Rooms are beautiful and tasteful decorated. The whole business is also clean and bright.

There are lots of treatments available waxing, tinting, graft a lash, hair removal, massage, exfoliation, facials, skin consultation and much more for women and men.

Especially convenient as free parking at the door."

- Leanne

Quay Aesthetics & Skin

Level 2/31 Cambridge Rd, Bellerive, TAS 7018

Ph: 03 6122 0155


Skin Treatments

Body Treatments

IPL Hair Removal

Cosmetic Injectables


Day Spa Treatments

Buy Gift Voucher

Shop Online

Download Aesthetics Menu

© 2020 Quay Aesthetics & Spa     Privacy Policy

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
app store logo.png