According to Acne Resource Center statistics, 60 million Americans are currently dealing with active acne problems on their skin. One major area where acne can cause issues is on the face, specifically around the follicles of facial hair. Although men are more likely to deal with acne and facial hair, women also can be plagued with both facial hair growth and acne formation.
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Skin Cells and Sebum
The hair follicles of your face are constantly shedding (sloughing) dead skin cells. As these follicles shed, they can combine with sebum in the follicles to create a small plug known as a comedone (whiteheads and blackheads). Sebum is a protective oil produced by tiny glands, known as the sebaceous glands, which reside beside the facial hair follicles.
Bacteria also play a role in the formation of acne in your facial hair follicles. The acne-related bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) can contribute to mild comedones progressing into more serious forms of acne, such as pustules. P. acnes bacteria can be present on your face at any time, but thrive in the low oxygen environment of a plugged follicle. This allows the bacteria to grow and multiply, causing infection and inflammation.
Hormones may also play a role in both acne and facial hair formation. In men, androgen hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can trigger the production of facial hair, and may also increase the activity of the sebaceous glands, making the skin more prone to acne formation. Although androgens are more common in men, women also can be affected by these hormones. For example, both pregnancy and diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome can increase the levels of androgens in the body, leading to cases of female facial hair growth and acne. How much you are affected by these hormonal changes can be influenced by your genetic makeup, with some genes making you more susceptible to hormonal imbalances.
Some medications may also cause an increase in acne formation and facial hair growth. For example, synthetic hormone medications including dehydroepiandrosterone, corticosteroids and anabolic androgenic steroids may cause an increase in sebum production, leading to acne development in both men and women. These medications also increase your androgen levels, which can lead to facial hair growth.