Acne and Genetics: is Zit True that Pimples are Hereditary?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Here’s what the science says on the link between your genetics and your zits.

Acne and genetics: How is acne hereditary?

Your genes can make or break your ability to fight acne-causing bacteria. According to a study, your genes can impact how good your immune system is at warding off P. acnes bacteria. High levels of pesky P. acnes stimulate oil production in the follicle and cause inflammation, which can lead to pimples.

ishonest No.312 - Prevent Acne

No.312 - Prevent Acne

Hormonal conditions that lead to acne can also run in fams. If those fateful pre-period breakouts are any indication, hormones have a big impact on acne. Acne’s a common symptom of hormonal and metabolic conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can be hereditary.

So, should you blame parents for your pimples?

You didn’t just inherit your dimples from dear ol’ fam — you may have also got their signature teenage pimples.

A research review concluded that a positive family history of acne was significantly associated with increased odds of getting acne. According to the data, the probability you’ll get zits grows if both ‘rents had them, too.

Researchers also think there might be a paternal and maternal component to acne. But they don’t know for sure if mom or dad’s acne increases your odds more.

The zit list: What else ups your risk of developing acne?

How to stop recurssive acne (for teens)

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Before you start cursing the family for your pimples, keep in mind your genes aren’t the only thing that influence acne. Other face-clogging factors include:

What you eat

A 2014 research review suggests there may be a link between diet and acne. Dietary interventions, such as cutting out dairy and reducing sugar intake can help reduce acne symptoms in some people.

That doesn’t mean you have to kiss milkshake and fries for good, but swapping them for some skin-friendly foods might help alleviate acne symptoms.

Your environment

Environmental factors like pollution can cause inflammatory acne, according to a study.

ishonest No.313 - Prevent Acne

No.313 - Prevent Acne

If air pollution is high in your area, you might want to invest in an indoor air purifier. Or get some fresh air on a wilderness walk or hike.

Your hormones

Hormones and stress can impact life, period. And, your sebum production is no exception. Keep in mind that although we tend to associate hormonal acne with teen years, adult acne is possible too.

Science Daily reports from the American Academy of Dermatology that an estimated 50 percent of females in their 20s, 35 percent of females in their 30s, and 26 percent of females in their 40s have adult acne.

To treat hormonal acne, try reducing stress through relaxation and talking with your doc about your options. Sometimes, birth control is prescribed to treat hormonal acne in females.

How to beat genetic acne

Prevent Acne: You need only 1 habit

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Your genes aren’t the end-all of your acne sitch. If you want to defeat your acne-provoking genes, try these tips:

  • Keep your face clean. Just because you have acne doesn’t mean your face isn’t clean, don’t worry. Still, washing your face at least twice a day and keeping your hands off your face (and washing that mask after each wear) will help reduce breakouts. Use oil-free and noncomedogenic products to ensure your pores don’t get clogged up.
  • Try an acne treatment. Acne products with ingredients like zinc, witch hazel, tea tree, vitamin C, and benzoyl peroxide may help flare- ups. You may have to do some experimenting to find what treatment works best for you, but a powerful product can make a big diff.
  • Try to curb stress and anxiety. Do some yoga, meditate, take a walk, or chat with your therapist. Anything that helps you relax may help curb acne symptoms. If you don’t have time for that, remember that even taking a deep breath can do a lot.
  • Eat a balanced diet. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, a low glycemic diet may clear up your skin. Consider cutting back on high glycemic foods like white bread, doughnuts, and soda and eating less dairy.


Research shows that your genes influence your likelihood of getting acne. If both of your parents have zits, you’re more likely to get them, too.

Even though there’s no single gene that causes acne, many things you inherit from your fam affect your risk. Heritable conditions like stress, anxiety, hormones, and your immune system’s ability to fight off pimple-causing bacteria all influence acne outcomes.

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