Adult acne is not something we envision as acne ridden teenagers fantasizing about adulthood and freedom. We expect our pimply woes to disappear the day we turn 20, never to be heard from again.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but adult acne is something many people will struggle with and women can expect to experience it at significantly higher rates than men. In fact, more than half of all women will experience the joys of adult acne in their lifetimes, and to make matters worse, those numbers are on the rise. Scientists attribute this upward trend to changes in hormones, higher levels of stress and poor diets.
Let’s start with the basics. Acne in general requires 3 things to exist: bacteria, oil, and an enclosure. This is created by p. acnes bacteria on your skin, the sebum our skin produces and pores. When the pores accumulate dirt oil and dead skin cells, the sticky nature of skin cells forms a membrane over the enclosure where the bacteria begins to feed on the oil. Your body’s white blood cell response is the gelatinous opaque fluid that builds up and causes the pimple.
Many skincare lines approach treating acne by drying the skin so thoroughly of its natural oils that the food source for the bacteria is eliminated and acne is reduced. That is true, but the skin is also left dehydrated and stripped of the natural oil it needs for comfort and barrier function. The most effective outcomes are reached through the use of salicylic acids to clarify pores and benzoyl peroxides to reduce levels of bacteria.
Hormones play a major role in levels of acne on the skin. This is why teenagers often experience issues with breakouts as they mature. It also sheds some light on why adults, particularly women struggle with adult acne. Though scientists and physicians have not been able to pinpoint exactly why adults continue to struggle with acne or how it differs from teenage acne, we absolutely see trends in women experiencing hormonal breakouts around the time of the menstrual cycle and during menopause. Hormonal acne is often found around the mouth and jawline.
Other factors that can cause acne in adults are poor diet, stress (hormones!), improper skincare, sleeping in makeup, or not cleaning pillow cases, phones and makeup brushes properly.
Hormones play a major role in levels of acne on the skin.
So what can we do about it?
If you suspect hormonal imbalances, your first stop should be your endocrinologist. Women suffering from PCOS or other hormonal imbalances may find relief through medical treatment. Unfortunately these conditions are not always easily diagnosed or treated so approaching the issue holistically is always recommended. Consume nutrient rich foods that agree with your body. This can vary from person to person, so it’s advisable to have an allergy test done to determine if something you’re eating is causing inflammation or isn’t compatible with your body.
Visit your skin care provider to have a full assessment done to determine the appropriate course of action. Often gentle peels can make a world of difference when treating acne in adults. Finally the age old adage get plenty of rest, exercise and drink water comes