How Acne Forms In Your Skin As A Result Of…

What is your biggest organ in your body? No, it’s not that, don’t brag about it.
It’s your king-sized skin.
Yes, your skin is an organ. Today we are going to get into some nitty details on how acne forms in your skin. If you have acne right now and want to treat it, you would better understand how the mechanisms behind its structure work. Jump in like a  bold ape!

Skin Layers

Your skin has three layers:

  1. Hypodermis (Subcutaneous tissue) – which is the bottom layer.
  2. Dermis– the middle layer, where much of your skin’s work is done.
  3. Epidermis – top layer, which is what you see every day in the mirror.
All three are important for your skin to look nice, but let’s see which is more sensitive. Let’s start with the bottom layer first, the almighty Hypodermis (Greek word for “under the skin”).

1. Hypodermis (Foundation)

The lowest layer of your skin structure. 
The hypodermis is the foundation of your whole skin structure. It is the necessary glue which connects your vital upper skin structures with connective tissue like muscles and fibers.
  • Hypodermis regulates body temperature.
  • It has the unique composition of mostly body fat tissue. 
  • It is also a crucial assistant when you get injured because it helps the veins deliver white cells more efficiently to the cite of injury
  • Another cool function of it is that part of the lymphatic system passes through. The lymphatic system is kinda the master cleaner of junk in your body.
  • Last but not least the nerves of your hair follicles root here.

But how acne forms so deep, it sounds crazy! Yes, acne does not form directly so far down in your skin. But you are a smart guy and you will figure out that taking care of the foundation makes the whole house stronger… or should I say less “acnier”?

The next skin layer though is where the acne starts to form and the where most of the action happens. It’s the grandmaster.


2. Dermis (Walls and Rooms)

The middle layer of your skin. It lies on top of your hypodermis and below your visible part called epidermis. This is the connector. Most of your skin’s “systems” are in your dermis layer. Pimples are formed here in the hair follicles by interrupting these important functions. Which functions do you ask?
  • Controls receptors for touch, heat, & cold.
  • Collagen is its main substance, which keeps your skin strong and together.
  • Elastic fibers are present, which makes your skin elastic.
  • Hair follicles are created here.
  • Contains the foundation of our nails.
  • Contains the famous Sweat Glands, which control your sweat.
  • Contains the Sebaceous Glands secrete the sebum – a lubricating oily matter. It goes into the hair follicles to lubricate your skin and hair.
  • Most of the lymphatic vessels (clean the junk) are working here.
  • Blood vessels are small in size and numbers here.
You got the picture. This is the Grande General! Treat it right and it will return the favor. But why is it very hard to keep it clean and fresh? Look at the last point we made for. What does this mean?
Well, acne starts in the dermis layer. For you to fight acne, you have to bring a ton of antioxidants and nutrients to the place of inflammation (acne). But the problem is that blood is very difficult to flow here because the capillaries get to small and far apart. So there is very difficult for your body to provide enough immune fighting antibodies to the cells and pores.
Overall, dermis may be crucial but it’s not the only one here. On top of it sits the visual and more sensitive layer of yours.

3. Epidermis (Roof)

The grand finale. The stuff that you see all over your face and body. That same stuff that you call skin without knowing the deep layers called dermis and hypodermis.

This is where you apply all these nasty creams filled with chemicals. (Choose better products for your skin!)

This layer is the graveyard of so many dead skin cells. From the dermis and the epidermis itself. But does it mean that we should behave with it like a piece of junk? Is it related to acne or is it another obstacle to the solution? How can you get through this layer and fight acne in its home basis, the dermis?

First of all, the epidermis cells are indeed kinda dead. Like zombies though, they have some functions. When you touch your skin, you feel something, right? That feeling is a zombie artwork from the “dead” skin cells on your epidermis. 

Sounds cool? But that’s not all of it! Zombie warrior cells do much more for your Majesty. They defend your skin and consequently your connective tissue and veins from outside foreign invaders that try to find a way to get in your body.

zombie fighters


This firewall of zombie skin cells is what keeps you healthy from multiple infections. Scientists thought for years that it is just useless junk, but that’s far from true. They communicate with each other and keep your “city’s wall” strong so that other “guys” inside the “walls” can do their job effectively.

Four to five layers of chemical processes in the epidermis are responsible to support vital functions of it.
Anything you put on your skin affects your epidermis directly. So, if the products or water is full of bad chemicals, epidermis’s chemical structure alters. After that, any message to the dermis is a bad one. So caring for what you put on your skin is of high importance if you want to destroy acne. How acne forms is an important map if you want to know how to treat epidermis.
Note: Epidermis carries no blood vessels. It gets every nutrient it needs from the lower level layer, the Dermis.
Now you ‘ve learned the basics on the three layers of your skin. But you don’t know yet how acne is formed.

What Is The Connection Between Acne And Skin?

hair and skin

In a nutshell?
Your hair follicles along with the attached sebaceous glands form the pilosebaceous units (PU). When those units (PU) get messy, acne forms. The sebaceous glands form the sebum, an oily substance which usually escapes from the hair follicle to the epidermis skin surface through the pore. Pore is a canal that helps with that way out.
Acne is created when androgen-induced sebum “cooperates” with dead hair follicle cells called keratin cells. Keratin cells are the building blocks of the hair folicle walls. Together, sebum and dead keratin cells (weird huh?) block the passage and give the opportunity to Propionibacterium acnes to grow massively.

When we say massively we mean it. Another word could be hypergrowth. That hypergrowth cause your PU’s to get inflammed like a house on fire. When a house is on fire (I hope not yours!) firefighters join the fight. These firefighters in our skin example are your white blood cells. These fighters stop bacteria growth, but in the process of doing that, there are casualties. Some of them die.

The mixture of your dead white blood warriors with the bad bacteria, all flowing inside oily sebum… that’s your acne pimple.

If you want to skip the nitty details, don’t read anymore, because you ‘ve got the basics. But if you ‘re a geek like us, jump into finding everything you need to know about your acne!

Two Glands To Remember

Your skin has two types of pores. Each pore has its own type of gland. That’s why they are called sweat pores and hair follicle pores.
  • A sweat pore connects with a sweat gland – which produces sweat.
  • A hair follicle pore connects with sebaceous gland – which produces sebum (we are going to explain soon).
Their actions differ, but both are extremely important for your healthy skin function.

What are sweat glands?

Sweat glands produce sweat. Sweat is mostly water that rises above your epidermis layer, which is the top surface of your skin.
When sweat reaches this surface level, it evaporates because of temperature difference. That function serves you well, as it cools your body. What basically sweat does, is to check your body’s thermoregulation. In less Greek, it controls your temperature. There is another function of sweat that is of great interest to you.

Sweat helps to moisturize your skin. Most noteworthy, it maintains the chemical balance needed for your skin to be protected from invaders, like viruses and bacteria.


Furthermore, sweat contains precious salt and electrolytes. Those two are of high importance for your defensive system because they bind to harmful toxins and excrete them. Of course, a number of toxins released from your sweat won’t be enormous, but it’s something to consider if you love saunas.
But now let’s go to those weirdos called sebaceous glands.

What are sebaceous glands?

Glands connected to the hair follicle pore and completely separated from any sweat gland. These glands produce the substance called sebum.
Sebum is the master lubricator of your skin. The oil that makes sure all systems work fine and your skin remain properly moisturized. Not only that but it is also waterproof which can come handy for your hair follicles. As we already mentioned, sebum travels from the hair follicle (and the PU) to the skin surface of the epidermis, through the pores.
What we call a “pore” is usually this two-part construction – hair follicle and sebaceous gland duct. If you add the tiny muscles attached to the hair follicle, the whole triad is known as Pilosebaceous Unit (PU), although more often than that, the tiny muscles are not included.
The Pilosebaceous Unit is protected from a community of cells called keratinocytes or keratin. Those cells are like mini-skin for the hair follicle and the sebaceous gland.
Certainly, you ask, why do I have to learn the story of sebaceous glands? Well, because the birthplace of acne is near those glands.
Acne forms in the sebaceous gland pore, which is the “hole” beginning from the origins of your hair follicle and reaches the surface of your skin.
So pay attention. What exactly causes your nasty pimples in your sebaceous glands?

How Acne Forms In The Dermis

When the sebaceous gland produces excessive sebum, then your sebum duct and hair follicle get clogged up. That’s the perfect environment for any acne infection to occur.
When you were a teenager your excessive acne was probably caused because your pores were small and undeveloped. But your sebum production was the same as now, maybe even higher because of the high androgen and activity levels. A chemical bomb. Lucky you!
This nasty clog inside the Pilosebaceous Unit (PU = Hair Follicle + Tiny Muscle + Sebaceous Gland Duct) is the start. The start of the worst thing on your skin, called acne pimple.
Remember that Keratinocytes (keratin cells) we mentioned before? When they die they have to flush out from the PU. If things don’t work out as they should, dead keratinocytes mix with sebum and they form a hard mixture. That ear wax-like substance creates inflammation. This mixture Trash stays home. Trash builds up. Home becomes trash. You get acne. Get it?
Things get worse. In every hair follicle of yours there live some small inhabitants. They like to be called Propionibacterium Acnes (or just P. Acnes).
These little bugs are kept in check by your sebum when it flows up and out the hair shaft. Sebum has anti-bacterial properties.
Certainly, when these bacteria are at peace with your hair follicles and their numbers are in check, there is no problem. Not only that, but these bacteria can benefit your hair growth as latest studies show! Great news! A win-win relationship.
If instead, these good willing bacteria grow more than usual, then rebellions arise. These bacteria can only get a chance to grow more when sebum and dead keratin cells clog the pores. By doing so, they force the natural producing sebum to be trapped inside the hair follicle. All this mess is a happy prosper environment for your bacteria, due to the plethora of food (dead keratin cells) and ph from sebum.
Eventually, that sebum clog acts in favor of these P. Acnes bacteria and they grab the opportunity to grow their numbers and create little emergencies for your body’s defensive army. That overgrowth of bacteria causes the PU system to swell up and gives the opportunity to other bacteria to grow too. P. Acnes bacteria excrete chemical compounds that cause the follicle wall to break down. That in turn, causes the eruption of the tiny blood vessels and your skin tissue becomes damaged.


The hair follicle becomes red and inflamed from these tiny blood vessels damages. It swells and then bursts apart. Your skin tissue does swell as well (rime?) because your body tries to fight these rebel bacteria with your Spartan-like defensive cells, called white blood cells.

These defensive warriors of yours fight back the bacteria and clean up the mess.

But wait? When does my acne pimple form exactly? In what stage of the battle?

Your acne pimple is white, right? That so because some of your white blood cells soldiers died in this battle and ultimately bacteria have conquered this castle of yours. Sorry. You should bring reinforcements, but you didn’t. We will talk in another episode about these reinforcements.

There are even lost battles where bacteria behave like barbarians. They burn the “city” to its grounds. That’s when your dermis layer becomes so inflamed that your skin texture (“matrix”) alters permanently. The so-called acne scar. It can help you look like Rambo’s face after a fight with knives, but is it worth it? I don’t think so.


The End

And there you have it, folks! Beginning with an AND is no good idea if you want to win the Nobel Literature, but nor is a good idea to keep your skin damaged and inflamed! You learned the basics of how acne forms in your skin!

Don’t forget to share this article with a friend of yours that is concerned about acne. We wrapped all these details into a fast-to-read infographic, you guys should check it out because it is a fast way to remember the key points of this article!


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