Acne – also known as zits, pimples, spots, blackheads, and whiteheads – is a condition that shows up as different types of red, often irritable bumps on the skin. Teenagers are the most common sufferers because of the hormonal changes that come with growing up. And if your parents had acne as teens, it’s more likely that you will, too. And in some rare cases, individuals also suffer from acne in to their adult years. Today we’re going to dive into the world of acne to get a better understanding of the different types of symptoms; get our heads around which individuals are most susceptible and why that is. 

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases or NIH, an estimated 80 percent of people between ages 11 and 30 will have acne outbreaks. So it’s very common; most of us will suffer from pimples and zits at some point in our life. It’s a condition that affects the skin’s oil glands and hair follicles usually on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders.  Doctors don’t know exactly what causes acne, but they say there are certain things that play a part. These include changes in hormone levels, which occurs during puberty, taking certain medicines, wearing makeup, and hereditary genes. In all cases, taking care of your skin will prevent outbreaks from becoming worse.

But what are the other reasons for pimples and zits appearing? One common reason we hear thrown around is that eating chocolate or greasy foods can cause spots. Is that really the case? Let’s look more closely at the evidence and see if there is any truth behind the rumor.

In 2016, British news outlet, The Guardian, ran a feature exploring the relationship between greasy foods and acne. They referenced research from a number of sources including the British Association of Dermatologists who state that there is little evidence that any foods cause acne, even chocolate and fast food. This confirmed a study by final-year medical students at Melbourne University. But research from the British Medical Journal showed that a diet high in dairy, particularly skim milk, can increase the severity of acne. So maybe chocolate is ok, but apparently some foods can cause pimples and zits. Next we came across a study on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, conducted in 2014. They wanted to assess the effect of chocolate on acne in males between the ages of 18 and 35. The men were given capsules filled either with pure cocoa or gelatin. Each participant consumed 6 x 1 ounce capsules in one sitting. The pure cocoa and gelatin were mixed so that the participants consumed different levels of cocoa. Well if you like chocolate, you won’t like the results. People’s pimples skyrocketed the days following chocolate consumption and the study showed that chocolate increases acne by 169%. However, don’t go trashing all your candy just yet! Seppo Puusa who runs, a place for rational advice on alternative and natural acne treatments, picked this study apart. He claims there are a couple of issues with the way it was conducted. Firstly, 14 participants is a very small study group, and small study groups are always prone to errors. Secondly, there was no real control group comparison between cocoa and the placebo, gelatin. So does chocolate give you pimples and zits? We couldn’t find a definitive answer as there seems to be arguments for both sides of the debate, but of course gorging on chocolate is probably not the best dietary idea anyway.


So what are the other causes of pimples and zits? Well, we mentioned at the beginning how hormonal changes while growing up is one of the main causes. And hormone imbalances are at their most extreme when our body goes through puberty. Let’s take a look at what happens and why people break out in spots. Girls may begin puberty as early as age 6 to 7, but typically go through it at age 11. Boys begin as early as age 9, but typically go through it around age 12. When a person is going through puberty, according to TeensHealth, the brain releases a hormone known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone travels to the pituitary gland and signals it to release two additional hormones that affect a girl or boy’s body differently. This results in growth and development, as well as production of hair under the arms and pubic area. This increased production of hormones signals the body to produce more sebum, which is a form of oil that develops in the pores. The excess production can also cause the oil to build up in the hair follicles, which results in pimples and zits.

What about adults? Can adults also get pimples and zits? It’s much rarer but yes, some adults do. One of the most common examples is with women who are going through menopause. Again the changes in hormone activity can affect the way a person’s skin protects and regenerates itself. The same effects are often experienced during pregnancy.

Stress has also been linked to breakouts of acne. Dr. Alexa Kimball, a professor of dermatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted research back in 2003. This research, on university students, showed that stress could trigger an acne episode. And the greater the stress, the more pronounced the breakout. When we are stressed, our bodies produce more androgens, which is another type of hormone, and again it leads to an increase in the oil that develops in the pores, and so we get more pimples and zits.

Ultimately, there are some clear reasons why we get pimples and zits, the common ones being hormonal changes in the body from puberty, pregnancy, stress or other physical changes. There are also other possible causes that are linked to our diet and what we eat, but these are still being debated with arguments on both sides.

So, what do you think are some other reasons for outbreaks of acne. Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Why Do We Have Pubic Hair? Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!


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