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Almost 20 years ago scientists investigated the relative contribution of genetic & environmental factors on the likelihood of acne on 1500 twins. They found 81%

of acne was attributable to genetic effects. The remaining 19% was attributed to unshared environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle & psychology.

On this, you might think why bother with addressing how you live if there’s a 4 in 5 chance it will make no difference? After all, if you’ve made diet changes & they made no difference, that just proves it right?

Nope. Here’s why. People. win. the. lottery

What??? 🙃Yep. The chance of winning the lottery is 1 in 45,057,474. The chance of a change in your diet, lifestyle, environment, psychology or stress level making a difference to your breakouts is 1 in 5. If you knew you had a 1 in 5 chance of your £1 making you millions would you give it a punt?

Now I know the statistics aren’t quite right with that example but even if you’re breakouts are genetically driven (chances are that they are) changes in your lifestyle will still have an effect.

Let’s take stress. Stress causes a complex series of changes to our bodies. As part of the stress response, cortisol and related hormone levels rise to prepare the body for a stressful experience and as a side effect, these hormones lead to an increase in oil production in our skin promoting breakouts.

Why? Science doesn’t know.

Perhaps oily ancestors had an easier escape from the grasp of a saber tooth tiger than dry skinned ones? 🤷

Either way, the stress acne trigger isn’t solely the result of a genetic trait – its also the result of an environmental one.

So…arguably if you tackle just that one stress part of the overall 19% you might push the balance back in favour of happier skin? After all, by focusing on what we can control (rather than what we can’t) aren’t we already on the path to less stress which means lower cortisol & less breakouts?

The real truth is that happiness doesn’t rest on a clear complexion but its easy to say that when you’re not in breakoutland.

But that’s for another day – today is just focusing on changing a part of that 19%.


The influence of genetics and environmental factors in the pathogenesis of acne: a twin study of acne in women. J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Dec;119(6):1317-22.

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