Is Acne Contagious?

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Remedies for Removing BlackheadsI’ve been asked this question multiple times: Is Acne contagious?  It seems like it might be, right?

With so many people, especially teens affected by acne, it would make sense that it is simply getting passed on from person to person.  Maybe the bacteria left on someone’s hat or cell phone that you borrowed caused you to break out.


Good news:  acne is not contagious.

Acne is caused by bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes, commonly shortened to P. acnes. Everyone has P. acnes on their skin – even if they don’t have acne.


If we all have P. acnes, why do some break out while other’s don’t?

It all has to do with what strain of P. acnes you have.  A recent study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology broke historic ground with the study of P. Acnes.  They sampled the P. acnes of 100 people and found that those with certain strands were either more likely to suffer with acne or more likely to not have acne at all.  (Here’s more info from that study.)  It boils down to the fact that we all have P. acnes, but what strand we have will be the determining factor in how severely acne affects our skin – if at all.


But what about that one time when….

We all have a story, right?  What about that time when I sampled makeup at a counter and broke out after? What about the time when I borrowed my friend’s <fill in the blank> and broke out? I swear I caught acne from my boyfriend/girlfriend!

Acne is typically caused by hormones which affect the sebum production in your skin but other things can cause you to break out.  Recent studies show that diets high in dairy can cause acne. Cosmetics and ingredients in your skin care products can cause acne.  Not washing your makeup brushes can cause you to break out.   Not cleaning your cell phone can also cause acne.  Staying in your sweaty clothes post workout can also cause breakouts.

It is likely a coincidence that brought on your acne that you think you got from your friend – not a contagious thing at all.


Here are some ways to keep your skin acne-free.

  • Wash your face every morning and evening.
  • Exfoliate your skin weekly or bi-weekly to eliminate dead skin cells from building up in your pores.
  • Use moisturizers that are noncomedogenic.  (Even if it says noncomedogenic on the label doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t make your skin break out.  Pay attention to your skin the first week or so after you start using new products.)
  • Clean your cell phone.
  • Change out of your workout clothes right away.
  • Don’t wear your hat 24-7. (And wash it!)
  • Keep your hair products off of your skin.
  • Change your sheets and pillow cases frequently.
  • Try to notice how often you touch your face (we bet a lot!) and reduce the amount you do so.
  • Use mineral sunscreen which won’t block your pores.

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