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Does skin oil cause pimples?

Skin oil alone does not cause pimples. Pimples are caused when skin oil, called sebum, mixes with dead skin cells and forms a plug that clogs a pore. All types of acne, including blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts, develop when pores in the skin become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Bacteria (called P. acnes) that normally live on your skin thrive on the excess oil in the pore. As the bacteria multiply in the clogged pore, the pore becomes inflamed. This causes a pimple to look red and swollen.

When hormone production increases, your body produces more sebum. This is why acne is common in the teen years. It is also why women often break out before menstruation and when they are pregnant.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Skin oil or sebum does not cause pimples by itself.  Sebum is necessary to lubricate the skin and hair.  However, if it is trapped beneath the surface of the skin by a plugged hair follicle, it can allow bacteria to reproduce, causing a small infection.  Watch the animation to see how this happens.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.