How to Know What Causes Your Acne Year-Round

Woman looking at acne How to Know What Causes Your Acne Year-Round

Acne is a condition that can stick with a person past their teen years into adulthood. Making sense of what causes your acne and how those triggers change with the seasons can better enable you to treat adult acne.

What Causes Acne?

Universal Triggers

There are a variety of causes for acne, from common and well-understood triggers to rarer and less researched triggers. Acne is, at its core, a condition caused by oily skin. This oil that’s produced by the skin is excreted by the sebaceous glands, which share a pore with a hair follicle. When the skin produces too much oil, pores are more prone to get clogged with oil, dirt, and other debris. So what causes acne in most cases? The answer is hormones. Hormonal shifts, the two major ones being puberty and pregnancy, are very commonly tied to acne breakouts and flare ups. Androgen hormones, including testosterone and androstenedione, are the main causes for acne. During puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, the production of these hormones rises. That triggers a process in the body that produces more oil, makes inflammation more likely, and lets bacteria colonize hair follicles. All of these factors combine for a perfect storm of acne.

Some drugs, notably those containing testosterone or corticosteroids, can also trigger acne breakouts. Because these drugs introduce acne-causing hormones to your system, it’s no wonder they can trigger acne. Some foods are linked to acne as well, though the research is still being conducted there. Scientists believe foods that are high in carbohydrates (breads, starches, etc.) can make acne symptoms worse. Again, more study is needed to determine why and how much some foods impact acne.

Fall/Winter

So what about acne triggers that shift with the seasons? The fall and winter are interesting in how they can trigger acne. While acne is mostly associated with oily skin, you can have dry skin and still experience acne. That’s because oily skin is not the same as hydrated or moisturized skin. This is especially true in the winter. If your skin is dry, cold winter air only makes it worse. That means that you probably need to up your moisturizer game. But too much moisturizer, or a heavy cream-based moisturizer, can be bad for dry, acne-prone skin. This can clog pores by catching more dirt and dead skin cells and collecting in the sebaceous glands with oil. Striking a balance between moisture and lightness can be difficult in the winter for people with dry skin. Thankfully, there are many products out there designed just for your skin. Experiment with them until you find one that works for you, and don’t forget to adjust as things start to warm up.

Spring/Summer

In the spring and summer months, dryness won’t be an issue for most people. Warm and hot air holds a lot more moisture, meaning your skin is safer from the more humid air. With hotter weather comes more sweat, and there are a lot of sweat glands on the face, chest, and shoulders. These also happen to be common acne problem areas. Sweat can collect dirt and dead skin cells, sticking to the skin and clogging pores. Sweat can be especially problematic when it’s under clothing for extended periods of time, like on bike shorts and baseball caps. In the summer, we should be using sunscreen more regularly, and while sunscreen is absolutely necessary, it can contribute to acne. Sunscreen can make skin more oily, and it can also over-moisturize already well-hydrated skin. Use lighter moisturizers in the summer, and make sure to wash off the sunscreen after those long summer days with a gentle soap.


Adult acne is a concern for millions of Americans, and it doesn’t ever really let up throughout the year, though its causes can change. If you’re looking to treat acne year-round, give us a call at Pacific Dermatology Specialists today.

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