Acne is a very common problem among teenagers and young adults. Around 85% of people aged between 12 and 24 years experience acne problems to some extent. This write-up covers causes, treatment, and ways to prevent acne and answers the question ‘Does sweat cause acne?’
1. What Is an Acne?
Acne is a skin condition where the pores of your skin clog. It is mostly found in teenagers and young adults and is more prominent in females than males. Yet, people of every sex and age can experience acne once in a while. The medical term for this skin condition is acne vulgaris.
The most common places where people might have acne are the face, forehead, chest, shoulders, and upper back.
2. What Are the Causes of Acne?
Acne may be caused due to a combination of physical, genetic, and lifestyle factors. Here is a list of factors that may contribute to the causation of acne.
2.1. Excess Production of Sebum
Sebum is an oily substance that provides a protective barrier from your skin. Sebum is released from sebaceous glands present in the skin. During puberty, hormonal changes take place at a rapid pace. This often leads to excess production of sebum, which, in turn, may cause acne.
2.2. Clogged Hair Follicles
Hair follicles or pores may sometimes get clogged due to the accumulation of excess sebum, dead skin cells, and/or other dirt and debris present on your skin. This will provide the ideal conditions for acne-causing bacteria to thrive and could cause inflammation or acne.
2.3. Bacteria (Propionibacterium Acnes)
Propionibacterium acnes is a type of bacteria naturally present in your skin. In individuals who are prone to acne, these bacteria can grow rapidly in clogged hair follicles, causing acne more frequently. When your immune system responds to this bacterium, inflammation occurs. This can cause redness and pain related to acne lesions.
2.4. Hormonal Fluctuations
During the phase of puberty, women experience rapid hormonal fluctuations in their bodies. Hormonal fluctuations in females are mainly related to the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
There is often an increase in androgens (male hormones) in them, which can lead to acne. This is because androgens trigger sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum that may later clog hair follicles and cause swelling.
2.5. Genetic Factors
People who have a family history of acne could be more prone to it. Though there is no definite gene for acne, a strong family history is usually found in acne patients. This is because genetics plays a great role in deciding how your skin reacts to hormonal fluctuations and can influence factors such as sebum production and inflammation.
2.6. Dead Skin Cells
Skin cells in the body die and shed every day. If they do not shed properly, hair follicles will get clogged and inflammation will occur, leading to the formation of acne.
2.7. Unhealthy Diet
The link between problematic diet and acne is a bit complicated and can vary from person to person. Though it has not been confirmed yet, some studies suggest that high-glycemic foods and dairy products may cause acne in some people.
Stressful situations are likely to cause hormonal imbalances in individuals, which in turn may lead to acne breakouts. Hormonal changes influence sebum production, which again, contributes to the formation of acne.
2.9. Cosmetic & Skincare Products
Many cosmetics as well as skincare products contain ingredients that may clog pores in your skin. Using such products can produce acne on your skin. Therefore, it is extremely important to choose the right kind of products for makeup and skincare.
2.10. Friction & Pressure
When people wear tight clothing, helmets, and hats, the friction between the skin and the clothing or the accessory, and the pressure created on your skin could cause acne breakouts.
2.11. Side Effects of Medications
Certain medications, especially corticosteroids, medications involved in hormonal therapy, or some anticonvulsants may lead to acne formation as a side effect.
3. Does Sweat Cause Acne?
Sweating is not exactly a direct cause of acne, but it is appropriate to say that excess sweat can trigger other agents of this skin condition. Let us look at some ways in which sweating can contribute to acne breakouts.
3.1. Clogging Pores
When a person sweats, the sweat may mix with dead skin cells and clog pores present in the skin. This will create the ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive and produce acne on the skin of the sweaty body parts.
Sweating on areas where the skin constantly rubs against your clothing or accessories will cause skin irritation. This will in turn lead to skin inflammation and worsen your experience with existing acne, while also creating the possibility for the formation of new acne on your skin.
High humidity leads to sweating in excess. This will make your skin pores more susceptible to clogging, thus increasing the risk of acne breakouts.
3.4. Sports Equipment & Helmets
Sports equipment and helmets generally have a tight fit, which causes sweating and friction on the skin. This can lead to the formation of acne in the sweaty areas of the individual.
4. How to Prevent Sweat-Related Acne?
Here are some tips that you can use to prevent sweat-related acne.
4.1. Keep Your Skin Clean
Keeping your skin clean and oil-free can help in reducing acne problems to a great extent. Whenever you get back from outside or sweat due to any other reason, rinse your skin gently but thoroughly and use a cleanser to remove oil and dirt from your skin.
4.2. Wear Breathable Clothing
Dress in comfortable clothing to prevent uneasiness and excess sweating. This will prevent sweat from accumulating in your skin and clogging pores. In this way, your chances of developing sweat-related acne would be reduced to the minimum.
4.3. Take a Shower After Workouts
People sweat profusely while working out. It is necessary to take a shower after every time you work out. This will wash away the sweat and avoid clogged pores, which is the main reason behind acne breakouts.
4.4. Avoid Touching Your Face
Almost all people have sweaty palms so it is best to avoid touching your face with them. Touching your face can transfer sweat from your palm to your face skin, which is way more sensitive and prone to acne.
4.5. Use Non-Comedogenic Products
Choose cosmetic or skincare products that are labeled as ‘non-comedogenic’. Non-comedogenic products do not contain ingredients that are likely to clog hair follicles on your skin. This way, you can make sure your cosmetic and skincare products do not contribute to the risk of acne breakouts.
4.6. Stay Hydrated
Keeping yourself hydrated is another natural way to prevent acne on the skin. Drinking a lot of water will keep your skin hydrated from the inside and balance oil production effectively, thus, preventing acne formation on your skin.
5. What Are the Types of Acne?
Acne can be of different types:
5.1. Blackheads (Open Comedones)
Blackheads are small dark spots that form on the hair follicle due to clogged pores because of excess sebum production. The surface of the clogged pores remains open. The dark color of blackheads is due to the oxidation of the accumulated or trapped material on one’s hair follicles.
5.2. Whiteheads (Closed Comedones)
Whiteheads are really similar to blackheads except for the fact that in the case of whiteheads, the surface of the clogged pores remains closed. The clogged hair follicle has the appearance of a small bump, which has the color of flesh.
Papules are small red bumps on the skin that are formed as a result of the breakdown of skin pores as a result of clogging. Papules are swollen bumps and can be very sensitive to touch.
Pustules are similar to papules except for the fact that pustules have a white or yellow center filled with puss. Pustules are commonly referred to as ‘pimples’ and generally have a red base.
These are larger and deeper bumps that develop under your skin. Nodules are more painful and take more time to heal.
Cysts refer to painful lumps filled with pus that develop under your skin. Cysts are deeper as well as more severe than both pustules and nodules and can leave significant scarring on your skin. Cystic acne often requires aggressive treatment.
Some other less common forms of acne include:
5.7. Acne Conglobata
This is a less common but very severe form of acne characterized by deep abscesses as well as interconnected nodules. Acne conglobata generally affects upper arm, chest, back, and hips. This type of acne also leaves deep scars.
5.8. Acne Mechanica
This type of acne is commonly found in athletes. Acne mechanica is triggered by friction or pressure of clothing material against the skin. Sports people often have to wear tight clothes, and sports equipment including helmets, which inevitably causes a lot of sweat and friction; this makes athletes more susceptible to this type of acne.
5.9. Acne Rosacea
Acne Rosacea is different from the commonly known types of traditional acne. Acne Rosacea is a severe skin condition and is characterized by certain severe symptoms like visible blood vessels and redness. Papules are pustules that are also formed, mainly on the face.
This skin condition is generally triggered by environmental factors and affects only adults around 30 years of age and above.
6. Are Acne Breakouts Dangerous?
Acne itself is not generally dangerous, yet it can have a significant impact on your quality of life as well as your self-esteem. While most acne is easily treatable, untreated and severe acne can cause other problems, such as:
6.1. Permanent Scarring
Severe acne lesions such as nodules and cysts take a longer time to heal and can leave behind scarring, which may sometimes even be permanent. This will affect your skin texture and appearance for a long time even after the actual acne has disappeared.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is often found in people after the acne lesions heal. Acne may leave behind darker or reddish marks, which take a long time to fade away.
6.3. Infections & Abscesses
Severe or untreated acne, especially cystic acne on your skin may sometimes cause abscesses as well as localized infections that are quite painful.
6.4. Psychological Effects
Severe or persistent acne makes a person susceptible to psychological distress, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Visible marks made or left by the acne could cause embarrassment and discourage people from taking part in social interactions, thus leading to social withdrawal symptoms in the victim.
6.5. Permanent Changes
Severe acne sometimes may bring about permanent changes in your skin. Even after the acne has been treated, it can permanently change your skin’s texture as well as appearance. Though a bit rare, such cases do exist.
6.6. Secondary Inflammation
Many people have a bad habit of picking and squeezing acne on their skin. This will often lead to infections and worsen the existing condition of acne on your skin.
Though acne itself isn’t life-threatening, its impact on one’s mental health, skin, and appearance should not be underestimated. A good dermatologist can offer you personalized solutions for your skin problems and other problems associated with it.
7. How to Prevent Acne Breakouts on Skin?
As acne is difficult to quickly get rid of, we should try our best to prevent it from developing in the first place. Here are some effective ways to prevent acne breakouts on your skin:
7.1. Cleanse Gently with Non-Comedogenic Cleanser
Use a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser to gently cleanse your face twice on a regular basis. But make sure not to over-cleanse. Using harsh products or cleansing your skin too often will wash away natural oil produced by your skin, causing your skin to produce excess oil in response.
7.2. Moisturize Every Day
Keeping your skin hydrated is essential to prevent acne and maintain skin health. Even if your skin is oily, consider using a light, oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydration intact and prevent it from producing more oil.
7.3. Exfoliate Every Week
To prevent acne formation on your skin, make sure you get rid of dead skin cells. Exfoliate once or twice every week to clear dead skin cells and prevent them from accumulating and clogging pores. Go for gentle exfoliants that contain salicylic acid or glycolic acid.
7.4. Avoid Touching Your Face
Try to avoid touching your face as much as possible. Touching your face with your hands can transfer oil, dirt, and bacteria (all of which cause acne) to your skin. In case you have to touch your face, remember to wash your hands first.
7.5. Avoid Squeezing the Acne
Popping or squeezing your existing acne does not heal it faster; instead, it creates secondary inflammation and could also cause infections. Moreover, popping and squeezing your acne may also cause scarring on your skin, which takes a long time to go away. Therefore, it is best to leave the acne as it is and avoid touching it at all costs.
7.6. Use Non-Comedogenic Products
Choose make-up or skincare products that are labeled ‘non-comedogenic’. This is because non-comedogenic products do not consist of ingredients that promote clogging of hair follicles on the skin.
7.7. Eat a Healthy Diet and Drink an Adequate Amount of Water
Proper diet as well as adequate hydration helps in maintaining and improving skin health. You should eat a balanced diet rich in green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. In addition to this, drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body and skin hydrated.
7.8. Avoid Heavy Make-up & Use Sunscreen
It is best to not put on heavy make-up if you have a sensitive and acne-prone skin. Also, sun protection is necessary to protect your skin. Use sunscreens before you go out to protect your skin from UV rays coming from the sun. Go for broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher.
7.9. Keep Your Hair & Clothing Clean
Keep your hair oil-free and try to avoid contact of hair with your skin as much as possible. Wash your hair and clothes on a regular basis or as frequently as you can to avoid transferring dirt and debris to your skin.
7.10. Exercise Regularly & Stay Stress-Free
Regular exercise will prevent sudden hormonal fluctuations and help maintain hormonal balance in your body, thus reducing the chances of acne breakouts on your skin. In addition to physical exercise, practice stress management and relaxation techniques to prevent acne due to stress.
7.11. Visit Your Dermatologist Frequently
If your skin is sensitive and prone to acne, it is safe to visit your dermatologist once in a while. In case your acne is severe or persistent, visit your dermatologist frequently to keep the doctor updated on your recovery.
Acne, though a common problem, is easily manageable, treatable as well and preventable most of the time. Some acnes may take longer than others to get rid of but don’t worry, they’re generally not dangerous at all. Also, keep in mind that what treatment works best for one may not do so for the other as different individuals have different skin types and genetics.
Stay consistent with your skincare routine, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and stay stress-free to keep the chances of acne minimal. Keep in touch with your dermatologist and update the doctor on your skin conditions as frequently as possible to make sure your skin stays smooth, healthy, and spotless.