Is Acne Genetic?
Just like your hair color, eye color, and facial features, your skin type is something that you’re born with and don’t get to choose. So if you have acne-prone skin, you can blame genetics. However, a recent study has shown that your genes aren’t the only factors that play a role in the development and severity of acne. Read on to learn more about what causes acne and how both genetics and environmental factors play a role in your breakouts.
What Does It Mean to Have Acne-Prone Skin?
Acne is a subtype of sensitive skin, so anyone with one of the eight sensitive Baumann Skin Types® may be more prone to acne than the eight resistant skin types, due to underlying inflammation. While all sensitive skin types do have inflammation, not all necessarily have acne. If you have acne-prone skin, your pores easily become clogged, causing comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), bacteria growth, and red, inflamed nodules or pimples.
Both dry and oily skin types can be prone to acne.
How Genes Affect Acne
For years, we have known that there is a genetic component to acne. We know that inflammation is the root cause of acne breakouts and other sensitive skin problems like rosacea, burning and stinging, and skin allergies and irritation. For people with sensitive skin, their bodies respond to various triggers with a specific inflammatory response, which is something that they cannot control and is governed by their genes. This is why some people get frequent red, painful breakouts, whereas others only have to deal with a blackhead or two once in a while. In the same way, some people may react to a certain allergen, such as nickel, while others do not. So in short, yes, acne is genetic.
Acne and Environmental Causes
However, a recent study involving 202 identical twins and 53 fraternal twins or triplets highlights an interesting spin on the role that your genes play in the severity of acne. Sixty-four percent of the identical twins in the study had acne, compared to 49% of the fraternal twins, which supports previous evidence that acne-prone skin is genetic. Within the group of identical twins, however, there were several environmental factors that had a significant impact on the severity of their breakouts.
Twins with a higher BMI and less frequent exercise, for example, tended to have worse acne than their more active sibling. Other factors that were statistically significant included sun exposure, cosmetic product use and sugar and refined carbohydrates intake.
Despite the long-standing myth that sun exposure clears acne, this study showed that the twins who reported more sun exposure experienced more severe and longer-lasting acne than twins who stayed out of the sun.
Use a non-comedogenic sunscreen if you have acne-prone skin.
Additionally, while eating sugary and fried foods also increased the severity of acne among the twins, menstrual cycles and oral contraceptives did not appear to affect acne in female twins.
How to Reduce Breakouts
Because acne is caused in part by your genes, there is no way to erase your skin sensitivities or change the way your body responds to inflammation. However, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to help lower the frequency and severity of your breakouts. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet. Avoid sugary and fried foods, as they can trigger inflammation and acne. Instead, eat lots of fresh produce and other anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, green tea, ginger, and turmeric.
- Getting enough exercise. Exercising regularly is beneficial to your entire body, including your skin. Just make sure you remove your makeup before working out and wash your face afterwards.
- Protecting your skin from the sun. It is a myth that the sun can clear up your acne. Use a physical sunscreen like EltaMD Physical that won’t clog your pores, wear a sunhat, and seek shade whenever possible.
- Following the right skincare routine. Acne is genetic, but with the right skincare routine that has been customized for your unique skin type, you can manage and even prevent breakouts.
- Reducing stress. Try meditation, yoga, and getting more than seven hours of sleep each night to help de-stress and get clearer skin.
Acne does have a genetic component, so if your parents both had acne, it is likely that you will too. However, there are also a number of environmental factors that can affect your skin, including diet, exercise, and your skincare regimen. Making positive lifestyle changes can help to make acne-prone skin more manageable so you can enjoy a clear, healthy-looking complexion.
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