Is Acne Caused by Heredity?

Updated June 13, 2014.

Question: Is Acne Caused by Heredity?

What causes acne? Is it hereditary?


Just like the color of your eyes and the shape of your nose, acne seems to be hereditary. So if Mom or Dad (or both) had acne, it’s more likely that you’ll develop it too. And the more members of your family with acne, the greater the chances you have of developing the problem.

Also, if you have a strong family history of acne, your own acne may be more difficult to treat. Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t find effective treatments or get good results but it is something to be aware of.

Incidentally, whether or not your mother had acne seems to determine your chances of developing this skin problem. In a study published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the incidence of acne increased if the mother had acne at any point in her life. This suggests that acne may be passed down through the X chromosome.

But don’t let your mother’s high school yearbook picture send you into heart palpitations. Even with a family history, it’s possible you’ll never have so much as the occasional pimple.

On the flip side, there are plenty of people with acne who come from clear-skinned parents. There are many other factors that contribute to acne development besides just family history.

If acne runs in your family, you’re not doomed to suffer through it. You have plenty of treatment options, many of which were not available during your parent’s acne-filled adolescent years. So, see your doctor. Family history or not, there are treatments that will be effective for you.

Sources: Ballanger F, Baudry P, N’Guyen JM, Khammari A, Dreno B. “Heredity: a prognostic factor for acne.” Dermatology 2006; 212:145-149.

Goulden V, McGeown CH, Cunliffe WJ. “The familial risk of adult acne: a comparison between first-degree relatives of affected and unaffected individuals.” British Journal of Dermatology 1999; 141:297-300.

Zahra Ghodsi, Orawa H, Zouboulis CC. “Prevalence, Severity, and Severity Risk Factors of Acne In High School Pupils: a Community Based Study.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology advance online publication 12 March 2009; doi: 10.1038/jid.2009.47