Just when you thought your “zit days” were over, adult acne strikes! Yes, adult acne is not a myth. You can suffer from this common problem in your 20s, 30s and even in your 50s and 60s. So, yes – it may feel unfair, but it’s possible you’d be fending off both wrinkles and acne at the same time. Adult acne can be triggered by many possible causes, which include menopause; the hormonal fluctuations during this time in a woman’s life can trigger breakouts. So ladies, consider yourselves warned!
According to studies, adult acne affects approximately 25 percent of males and 50 percent of females, and in about 34 percent of all cases, it doesn’t just affect the face but the body as well. This skin condition can affect your shoulders, back and chest. The problem isn’t merely cosmetic as it can have other negative effects, such as low self-esteem and depression.
To get rid of adult acne for good, you must first understand why it develops in the first place.
Causes of Adult Acne
Again, there are different possible causes of adult acne, but here are the most common:
1. Hormonal Changes
Male hormones (called androgens), which are also produced by females (only in small amounts) can increase due to several reasons. Some causes of hormonal changes include certain medications, premenstrual syndrome, menopause and some medical problems. Hormonal changes increase oil production in the body and this makes it more likely for an individual to have clogged pores, and directly lead to pimples.
This is the reason women usually get breakouts right before their period begins and it is also why menopausal women can get acne. There are studies indicating that women over the age of 33 are more likely to suffer from premenstrual pimples when compared to those who are younger. For hormone-related acne, you need to determine the specific cause in order to address the issue and properly treat this condition.
2. Your Diet
There’s an old misconception that high-fat foods, such as chocolates and nuts can directly lead to breakouts. However, studies have shown otherwise; however, there are certain foods that have been found to cause or exacerbate breakouts – simple carbohydrates and dairy products.
Simple carbohydrates are known to cause a blood sugar spike and this has been proven to trigger the skin’s inflammatory response; therefore, it considerably increases your chance of breaking out. On the other hand, dairy products tend to contain hormones that can trigger or worsen acne. This is due to the fact that most dairy products are sourced from animals that are injected or fed with hormones to boost production of milk.
3. High Levels of Stress
Have you noticed that you tend to breakout more during stressful situations, such as big events and busy workdays? This is because stress signals your body to produce cortisol (called the stress hormone). This hormone signals your body to produce more oil so there is a higher tendency for pores in the skin to clog. Take note that cortisol is also responsible for fat storage in your stomach area, which is another reason you should take stress management seriously.
For stress-related acne, you can try relaxation techniques, yoga and other stress control techniques. Remember that sleep is very important since it is during this time that your cortisol level drops back to normal.
4. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Other Conditions
As mentioned previously, there are health problems that can cause hormonal problems, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome – a condition that affects approximately 5 to 10 percent of women. Most of these women aren’t even aware that they have a health issue that they need to be treated. This is why it is important to get checked-up regularly even if you don’t feel unwell.
If you are suffering from acne and it comes with irregular periods or abnormal hair growth, consult your physician immediately. This problem can be easily treated through medication and the acne will clear up in a few days or weeks.
Adult Acne VS Teen Acne
The appearance and treatment of adult acne is different from teen acne. When it comes to teen acne, the skin condition appears as numerous tiny bumps (including whiteheads and blackheads) on the face, and it commonly affects the forehead, cheeks and chin. In adult acne, it typically appears on the sides of the face, chin and back, but it is generally less severe. Adult acne often appears as bigger, red papules and deep nodules that can appear in different parts of the skin. Nevertheless, adults can also get fine little bumps but this is uncommon.
When it comes to treatment, the difference is due to the skin becoming thinner as a person gets older. Because of this, adults who are suffering from acne can experience sensitive reactions easily. Therefore, they need formulations that are milder; hypoallergenic products are recommended by skin care professionals.
Does Adult Acne Go Away With Time?
Normally, your hormones settle down as you get older – so the acne on your skin gradually clears up. However, when there are other factors that are not addressed, such as the use of certain medications or there is an untreated medical condition, adult acne will not resolve on its own. The specific cause needs to be determined in order for the appropriate treatment to be known. It is best to consult a skin care specialist for cases of persistent adult acne.
What Really Clears Adult Acne?
Again, the right treatment is different from one case of adult acne to another. You can try non-prescription formulations first, like a clarifying cleanser and/or an acne spot treatment. Just remember that you need to be very careful in scrutinizing a formulation before purchasing. This is because there are many products that contain potentially irritating ingredients that can even worsen your acne. If you suffer from recurrent acne, continuous use of these products, especially a clarifying cleanser is essential. Once you discover the particular cause of your acne, it can usually be cleared up in a few weeks – as long as you use the right products diligently.
Myths and Facts about Adult Acne
With all the information you are bombarded with, eliminating acne can the right way can get confusing. To get rid of acne for good, let’s sift through facts and bust the myths. Here are some of the things you should know about.
Myth 1: Adults Can’t Get Acne
Even when you are already in your 30s, 40s and even 60s, acne can still develop for several reasons. For instance, menopausal women experience hormonal fluctuations that can cause breakouts. Remember that treating adult acne is not the same as treating teen acne; aging causes certain changes in your skin – it becomes thinner and more delicate.
Myth 2: Chocolate Will Give You Acne Overnight
For years, many people have believed that acne can be directly caused by chocolate and high fat foods. The connection of diet and acne development is still controversial, but there is no significant evidence that chocolate can trigger acne. However, some studies have shown that dairy products and food that can cause a spike in blood sugar (like simple carbohydrates), can influence acne.
Myth 3: Just Wash Your Face More Often to Get Rid of Acne
This popular myth has been around for a very long time, but the fact of the matter is that washing your face more often can actually contribute to breakouts. This is because when the skin is too dry, your sebaceous glands will start to produce more oil. Cleansing is an important part of acne treatment but you should use the right formula for your skin type. How often you need to wash also depends on the type of your skin.
Myth 4: Acne-Prone Skin Doesn’t Need to Be Moisturized
There are moisturizers that are specifically designed for oily and acne-prone skin. Moreover, products designed to treat acne tend to dry out you skin, which is more reason you need a moisturizer in your regimen. If you have problematic skin, you may need a moisturizer that offers SPF for extra protection.
Myth 5: Don’t Wear Makeup if You Have Acne
Even if your skin breaks out fast, you can still wear makeup – as long as they are non-comedogenic. Remember to stick to lighter and looser foundations like those that use minerals so that your acne will not be aggravated.
Myth 6: Adult Acne Goes Away On Its Own
Unlike teen acne, adult acne won’t clear up on its own without proper treatment simply because you have to target its cause – and causes of adult acne vary. You might want to consider over-the-counter treatments, but if your acne seems to linger and isn’t planning to bid goodbye just yet, consult a dermatologist. You might be targeting the wrong cause so your acne is not getting any better.
Myth 7: Acne is A Mere Cosmetic Issue And Not that Serious.
The thing is, acne may look like just a minor skin woe and isn’t life-threatening – but it is definitely more than that. An acne breakout does not only affect your skin; it affects your self-esteem, confidence and the way you relate to other people. Acne can make you feel ugly, or undeserving of praise. And most of the time, acne sufferers would rather be alone and invisible than hear insults or get bullied. Apart from psychological and social misery, severe cases of acne that are improperly managed or left untreated can leave acne marks – which is the worst!
Myth 8: Scrub Your Zits to Clean up the Puss
Scrubbing your acne can traumatize the affected skin and spread bacteria, which are the worst things you can do. Some people may find comfort by getting the goop out of the skin, thinking this can heal acne faster. However, scrubbing or picking skin is one of the worst things you can do to your skin and the top culprit to blame for acne scars.
Myth 9: All Face Creams And Cleansers Are Basically of The Same Kind of Treatment
The problem is that not all people are willing to spend on what’s safe and effective for their skin in the long run, and would settle for cheap products. Others are just too lazy to do their leg work, so they’ll just buy whatever face cream or cleanser. Ask a dermatologist (not just the person behind the counter when you’re buying from a department store) for recommendations and go check the websites of your top picks so you can weigh the benefits and probable side effects, if there are any.
Does Diet Play A Role In Triggering Your Breakout?
As opposed to what many people think, adult acne is not just “hormonal” or a normal part of adolescence whereby acne lingers long into adulthood. While there are no conclusive studies yet that diet can trigger adult acne, some evidence that refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, white pasta, candy, sugar, artificial syrups, potatoes and pastries) and dairy products (butter, cheese, milk, ice cream) can break you out. The reason behind this is that high glycemic index and refined carbohydrates tend to get absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, causing spikes in your insulin levels. High insulin levels increase your risk of acne because they:
- Promote inflammation
- Encourage overproduction and accumulation of skin cells (that can clog pores)
- Cause androgen levels to surge. Remember that androgen stimulates production of oil (sebum), putting sebaceous glands into overdrive.
The good side of this is you can also consume the RIGHT food to prevent acne breakouts and help clear up your skin. These food groups include:
- Anti-inflammatory foods (green leafy vegetables, broccoli, beets, pineapple, blueberries, salmon)
- Organic produce
- Low-glycemic index (Low GI) foods or foods that do not cause blood sugar spikes (whole wheat, oatmeal, muesli, oatbran, sweet potato, corn, peas, legumes, most fruits and non-starchy vegetables.
Ways to Get Rid of Adult Acne
Sure, battling adult acne is undeniably tough. But don’t lose hope because the right treatment may be on its way so you can finally say hello to a clear, smooth and beautiful skin. When trying to shoo away annoying – and sometimes persistent zits – remember that adult acne has different causes, so your main goal here is to identify the cause before treatment.
Acne Treatment Serums
Over-the-counter spot treatments, such as acne-fighting serums, are designed to clear up acne breakouts quickly by soothing and healing the treatment zone. Consider highly-concentrated multi-action serums like Zeroblem by Solvaderm Skincare that deep clean, disinfect, dissolve excessive oils on the skin’s surface and remove dead skin cells and acne-causing impurities from the pores.
It targets four key contributing factors of acne: overactive sebaceous glands, inflammation, growth of acne-causing bacteria and excessive skin cell turnover. Opt for a gentle, non-greasy formulation as it is ideal for acne-prone and oily skin.
Ingredients To Look For
- Salicylic acid – also called, beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid is the gold standard of acne treatment. It gets rid of acne by gently exfoliating the pores to remove acne-causing bacteria, trapped oil, dirt and dead skin. It is also gentle enough to use on your face.
- Benzoyl peroxide – kills acne bacteria while removing dead skin cells, excessive oiliness; and skin impurities from the pores. The caveat: It’s not so gentle on skin, and can leave it dry and irritated.
- Tea Tree Oil – is a very popular natural acne treatment, which is well-known as an alternative to benzoyl peroxide. The oil can reduce bacteria that cause acne while at the same time offering anti-inflammatory effects as well. In fact, studies have shown that it works against 27 out of the 32 strains of bacteria that cause acne. This is the reason it can be found in a wide variety of anti-acne products. If you’re considering this option, you should make sure that the concentration is at least 5 percent (for more severe breakouts, you can use up to 15 percent).
- Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is often used to combat both acne and wrinkles. It exfoliates the skin, sloughing off dead skin cells on surface and stimulating collagen production and hyaluronic acid. It helps clear up bad breakouts and bring back your skin’s smooth texture.
- Sulfur – draws oil out of your skin and dries up acne, making it a good spot treatment.
- Retinol – also known as Retin-A (prescription form), retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that skin absorbs and converts to retinoic acid. It works wonders for the skin by fighting acne and at the same time, stimulating collagen production, which also makes it a good anti-aging treatment. However, retinol can be harsh on skin and may not be a good option if your skin is sensitive.
If you have a love-hate relationship with retinol because of the terrible adjustment period (six weeks of raw and flaky skin), keep in mind that it can make your skin more resilient and healthier in the long run.
1. Antibacterials And Anti-Acne Cleansers
There are plenty of prescription and over-the-counter formulations that can be used to clear up your skin, such as antibacterials and anti-acne cleansers. Dermatologists often prescribe a cleanser that uses active ingredients with an antibacterial effect. There are also formulations utilizing ingredients that reduce oil in the skin like salicylic acid. Remember to avoid products with harsh ingredients or those that have high concentrations of active ingredients since these can irritate the thinner skin of adults. Prescription products typically make use of retinoids or other
compounds that kill acne-causing bacteria or unplug follicles.
2. Exfoliate On a Regular Basis
Exfoliating your skin regularly is one of the most important things you should do to prevent and fight acne. Your go-to ingredient? Glycolic acid. It’s an acne-busting exfoliant that eliminate or shed dead skin cells on the surface layer of the skin, preventing cell-build up.
3. Stress Management
We have learned that many adult acne cases are triggered by high stress levels. Stress is taxing for your immune system and can push it into overdrive and causing inflammation throughout your body. When you are under stress, your body produces stress hormones, including cortisol, which travel through your blood stream, signaling your blood vessels to expand and your blood pressure to rise. This reaction tends to help you cope with stress, giving you energy to do more work. The downside is that inflammation can trigger a breakout.
In addition, some testosterone is leaked out as well as your adrenal glands produce cortisol. For many people, especially women, this will drive oil glands to increase oil production – one of the main causes of breakouts.
Some of the ways to keep stress at bay are to:
- Get more sleep
- Consume a healthy diet
- Drink more water
- Limit your caffeine consumption
- Do a regular workout
- Stop smoking
- Do stress-relieving activities, such as yoga, deep breathing techniques
When you are at work, it is still possible to de-stress yourself by walking around. Even taking a stroll during your lunchtime can have a huge impact and help manage breakouts.
4. Oral Contraceptive
Does you acne come out to play about a week before your period? Well, then it may be your hormones going haywire. “When hormone levels stay stable, it’s easier on the skin. When they fluctuate a lot, that’s when the skin breaks out,” says clinical instructor of Mount Sinai School of Medicine Dr. Debra Jaliman. Consider popping a pill! Consult your doctor as he or she may prescribe an oral contraceptive to help stabilize your hormone levels throughout the month, which may help clear your skin.
The drug spironolactone, which has long been used for hypertension treatment has now become a popular way to treat hormonal acne. It blocks androgen receptors to prevent testosterone surges that directly cause pimples. Oral contraceptives are another option that has been available for some time already; they regulate hormone levels in the body to clear up breakouts and prevent their reoccurrence.
6. Acne Surgery
One important thing to remember: it must be done in a doctor’s office! While it works the same way as squeezing your pimples at home, acne surgery performed by a dermatologist won’t cause infection, spread of bacteria or acne scars. You’ll get immediate results too.
7. Laser And Light Therapies
There’s always a new therapy that claims to be the best treatment for acne, but most of these are expensive. For instance, blue light therapy uses rays that can penetrate deep into follicles and kill bacteria that cause acne; one treatment session usually starts at $200. Take note that inexperienced professionals who usually charge less can make a mistake and cause adverse effects like skin burns. Photodynamic therapy uses a topical solution for more optimal skin clearing effects, but some dermatologists charge upwards of $500 per treatment session.
8. Avoid Carbs And Dairy
The latest acne research indicates that junk food and chocolates aren’t to blame for the persistent skin problem. And we have also learned that that certain foods that can trigger or worsen acne, including dairy products and high glycemic food items. Therefore, you should try eating less dairy for a few weeks if you have moderate to severe acne that persists despite trying different treatments. According to experts, this may be due to the hormones that they contain or the high sugar content of most dairy products.
Additionally, you should also try reducing your consumption of carbohydrates, especially those that can cause your blood sugar to spike (refined carbohydrates). Some examples of foods that you should avoid are pastries, sodas and even some fruits. Scientists believe that this is because insulin can trigger the release of hormones that enhance oil production and inflame follicles.
Tips for Preventing Adult Acne
Adult acne is generally recurrent so you need to be proactive after your skin clears up. Use these proven tips if you want to keep your skin clear and beautiful:
- Use a Non-Prescription Anti-Acne Product – You don’t usually need a prescription formula for cleansing your skin and protecting it against acne-causing bacteria. However, you should be careful in choosing a product and make sure it uses clinically proven anti-acne ingredients, such as salicylic acid, sulfur and alpha hydroxy acids. When you’re using a new formula, make sure to test it first on a small area of your skin. For sensitive skin, it is best to use hypoallergenic formulation s or those that are very gentle.
- Keep Your Face Clean Always – Skin care experts say the foundation of good skin care regimens is using the right cleanser. For people with acne-prone skin, this means a clarifying formulation that uses ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acids. To help minimize the risk of skin irritation, look for products that also contain natural ingredients that soothe the skin (like lavender oil). For most individuals, cleansing should be done twice a day, but for people with especially oily skin, it should be done more often.
Keep in mind that warm water should be used when washing your face as this tends to dry your skin out. Avoid formulations that use harsh chemical ingredients and never use ordinary soap on your face since this can cause irritation. Take note that you should not use harsh scrubs on your face’s delicate skin as well – this can actually irritate your skin and make acne worse.
- Moisturize – Most people aren’t aware of the fact that many skin care products, especially anti-acne products, tend to dry out skin. This is just another reason you should include a moisturizer in your skin care regimen. However, make sure that the product you use is non-comedogenic – meaning it doesn’t contain ingredients that can cause acne. Your skin type will determine the best moisturizer for you and how often you should use it.
- Be Careful with Makeup – A lot of ingredients in makeup and other skin care products contain ingredients that can cause breakouts. If you are prone to acne, you need to be extra vigilant in choosing makeup. Remember that you should wash it off at night before going to bed so that there is a much smaller chance that it will cause acne. Choose products that are oil-free and make sure they don’t contain irritants like dyes and fragrance.
- De-Stress – The importance of stress management can’t be overemphasized in fighting acne – a lot of people who can’t determine the cause of their acne simply overlook stress as a major factor. Aside from stress management techniques, living a healthy lifestyle can also help protect your body from acne and other skin problems. Don’t forget to get enough sleep every night, which is vital for reducing your stress level.
- Stop Touching Your Face – Although it is not easy, you need to stop picking on your pimples – this won’t get rid of them anyway. In fact, aggravating your acne or traumatizing your skin can lead to scarring. Moreover, touching, squeezing or popping pimples will further inflame your skin and this can even lead to infection, which will increase the risk of developing acne scars.
Adult acne is a common problem, but it doesn’t mean it is normal or inevitable. If your skin is prone to an acne breakout, it’s not the end of the world for you. In fact, a ton of treatment options can rid your skin of pesky acne or prevent it in the first place. The rule of thumb is knowing what is causing your acne and target from the source. In most cases, over-the-counter acne products with ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and/or sulfur can clear up the breakout, however, if you have a more serious condition, your best option is to consult a dermatologist and ask for a prescription.