Physical Traits

Is Acne Genetic? 

There is a direct link between your risk of developing acne Vulgaris and your genetic makeup. Learn more about acne and genetic ties here.

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Is Acne Genetic? 

The Link Between Genetics, Acne, and Health Habits 

Acne is the most common skin condition in the US and comes in many shapes, forms, but the severity of your acne could come down to your genetics. 

‍We’ve all experienced it. That pesky pimple that pops up in the middle of our face before a special event or an important presentation. 

While we usually are not sure why it happens, we tend to blame it on various things, like too much sugar, stress, or PMS.

No matter the cause, the feeling acne brings up is the same: annoyance with a side of “I need to cover this now!” especially for those of us who have passed the teenage years and feel as though acne is a thing of the past.

While some pimples are completely random and most likely tied to diet or lifestyle changes, chronic acne – or acne vulgaris – is typically connected to something more serious, such as a genetic predisposition to developing it as both a teen and an adult. 

If you experience breakouts often, it may be due to your genetics.

Let’s explore the link between genetics and acne vulgaris in more detail. 

What is Acne Vulgaris?

Acne vulgaris, most often referred to as acne or pimples, is an inflammatory skin disease.

It is the most common skin condition affecting an estimated 40 to 50 million Americans every year.1

Acne can affect any part of the body but is most common on the face, chest, shoulders, and back. 


Acne vulgaris symptom type and severity vary from person to person but often include:

A person affected by acne vulgaris may experience as little as one pimple or as many as hundreds throughout their body at any given time. 


The exact cause of acne vulgaris is a complex interplay between an oily substance called sebum, skin shedding, inflammation, and hair follicles. 

The typical evolution of acne follows something like this:

  1. The oil glands at the tips of the hair follicles in your skin are overactive
  2. Pores become clogged due to skin shedding
  3. inflammation follows, causing pimples to form 

Oil overproduction has been linked to:

Despite the causes, scientists have noted that acne can lead to severe emotional and psychological responses directly tied to lowered self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and unemployment. 

A proven genetics-based link between acne vulgaris and genetics exists.

Evidence that genetics are tied to acne vulgaris development has been established through various studies.

Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of severe acne have identified three genomic loci  (think of loci like a "genetic street address" telling you where something is located on a gene) holding gene variants associated with acne vulgaris in the European population and two in the Han Chinese population. 

These loci have provided insight into the biological mechanisms that underlie disease development, including an influence on a function of the body that helps with cell growth, differentiation, and development in a wide range of body functions, including acne.* 

In the current study, researchers explored the genetic susceptibility of severe acne by identifying genetic variation at 15 genomic loci that contribute to disease risk. 

They performed a GWAS of 3,823 cases recruited through a network of hospital-based dermatologists within the United Kingdom and 16,144 unselected population controls, followed by an analysis from a  previous study in the UK. 

They identified 15 risk loci that showed some consistency for risk.**  One of the locations of the loc, is along a specific gene known for the regulation of cell fate (how the cell divides, and what it becomes) and patterning (where the cell goes in the body).*** This area is also known for regulating hair cycle growth.

Understanding the genetic link may help advance treatment options soon.

One current study provides a substantial advancement in our insight into the genetic susceptibility and the development of severe acne.

The reduced hair follicle activity and sebum production that results from a disruption in this area (ofWnt-10a activity) is consistent with developing acne.

By increasing the number of genomic loci associated with acne susceptibility in the European population from 3 to 15, we can see a series of genes contributing to hair follicle development. 

The findings may lead to new potential treatment options that focus on suppressing inflammation and bacterial colonization to reduce the risk of acne vulgaris development and recurrence. 

How Do I Know If My Genes Play a Role in Acne Vulgaris? 

DNA analysis might be the best way to determine your genetic tendency for acne vulgaris.

A DNA testing kit is easy to obtain and use. The best part? Your genetic DNA testing results can reveal many answers to your questions about acne or other skin conditions.

Once you’ve taken an at-home DNA test, you can use your raw DNA file to  analyze your genetic profile further. 

The  process is simple: simply sign in to the Genomelink dashboard to upload your DNA file, and our experts will take care of the rest, leaving you with eye-opening results and a deeper understanding of yourself.

Start your journey to a deeper connection with self; Unlock your full genetic potential today!

* Components of the TGFβ pathway, which plays a critical role in the regulation of cell growth, differentiation, and development in a wide range of biological systems, including acne.

 ** 20 independent association signals at 15 risk loci, and the lead variant's magnitude and direction of effect at each of the observed risk loci are consistent. These variants include rs121908120 in the WNT10A gene and rs158639 in the LOC105378977 gene. 

*** It has been reported that the WNT10A gene encodes a member of the Wnt family of secreted signaling proteins that contribute to 

Notably, the Wnt-10a gene is strongly expressed in the dermal papilla within the pilosebaceous unit during the anagen phase of hair growth. It is expressed in the dermal condensate and the adjacent follicular epithelium.

1 Titus S, Hodge J. Diagnosis and treatment of acne. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86(8):734-740.

2 Petridis C, Navarini AA, Dand N, et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis implicates mediators of hair follicle development and morphogenesis in risk for severe acne. Nat Commun. 2018;9(1):5075. Published 2018 Dec 12. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-07459-5

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