It is a common misconception that acne is only a teenage problem. However, many adults, both men and women, continue to experience acne well into their adult years. If you are an adult dealing with acne, you are not alone. In fact, 26% of women aged 31-40 have acne and 12% of women over 40 have acne! Adult acne can be very frustrating but also very treatable!
Understanding Adult Acne
Adult acne is a complex condition influenced by various factors. While the exact causes of adult acne can vary from person to person, several factors contribute to its development:
- Hormonal Factors: Hormonal fluctuations play a significant role in adult acne. In women, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause can all contribute to acne breakouts. Hormonal imbalances, such as increased androgen levels, can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, leading to clogged pores and acne formation. Hormonal acne is often characterized by deep, cystic lesions along the jawline and chin.
- Stress: High levels of stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in the body and contribute to the development of acne. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can increase oil production and inflammation in the skin, leading to acne flare-ups. Additionally, stress can worsen existing acne by causing individuals to touch or pick at their skin more frequently.
- Lifestyle and Environmental Factors: Certain lifestyle and environmental factors can worsen acne in adults. Excessive humidity, and occupational or recreational exposure to oils, greases, or solvents can contribute to the development of acne. Additionally, the use of heavy or pore-clogging skincare products, such as comedogenic makeup or oily moisturizers, can exacerbate acne. Dietary factors, such as a high glycemic index diet or excessive dairy consumption, have also been implicated in acne development.
- Medications and Underlying Medical Conditions: Some medications may trigger or exacerbate acne in adults. Hormonal medications, such as certain types of contraceptives or hormone replacement therapies, can affect the balance of hormones in the body and contribute to acne formation. Certain medications, such as corticosteroids or anticonvulsants, can also lead to acne breakouts. Underlying medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or hormonal disorders, can contribute to the development of adult acne.
Acne Treatment Options
If you are an adult struggling with acne, it is important to seek professional help from a dermatologist. They can assess your skin condition, identify the underlying causes of your acne, and recommend appropriate treatment options. Treatment for adult acne may include:
- Topical Treatments: Dermatologists often prescribe topical treatments that contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinoids, or antibiotics to reduce inflammation, unclog pores, and kill acne-causing bacteria. These treatments help to control acne breakouts and promote clearer skin.
- Oral Medications: In certain cases, oral medications may be prescribed to address hormonal imbalances or severe acne. Hormonal treatments, such as birth control pills or anti-androgen medications like spironolactone, can be effective in managing adult acne. Oral antibiotics or isotretinoin (Accutane) may also be recommended.
- Professional Procedures: In some instances, dermatologists may recommend professional procedures to help improve acne and reduce scarring. These procedures include chemical peels, laser therapy, or micro-needling. They can help to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and promote skin renewal.
- Skincare Routine: Establishing a gentle and consistent skincare routine is essential for managing adult acne. This includes using non-comedogenic products, avoiding harsh or abrasive cleansers, and regularly cleansing and moisturizing the skin. It is important to note that over-washing or harsh scrubbing can irritate the skin and worsen acne.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Making certain lifestyle modifications can also contribute to managing adult acne. These may include stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, or counseling, as well as adopting a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limiting the consumption of high glycemic index foods and dairy products may also be beneficial for some individuals.
Adult acne is a complex condition influenced by various factors, including hormonal changes, stress, lifestyle, and medications. If you are an adult experiencing acne breakouts, it is important to consult with a dermatologist who can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend an individualized treatment plan. Remember, everyone’s skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. With the right interventions, including hormonal treatments, medications, lifestyle modifications, professional procedures, and a tailored skincare routine, you can effectively manage and minimize adult acne for clearer and healthier skin.
- Zeichner, J. A., Baldwin, H. E., Cook-Bolden, F. E., Eichenfield, L. F., Fallon-Friedlander, S., Rodriguez, D. A., … & Tan, J. (2017). Emerging issues in adult female acne. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 10(1), 37–46.
- American Academy of Dermatology. (2016). Acne: Diagnosis and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/diagnosis-treatment
- Zeichner, J. A., & Baldwin, H. E. (2013). Acne Vulgaris. In L. A. Goldsmith, S. I. Katz, B. A. Gilchrest, A. S. Paller, D. J. Leffell, & K. Wolff (Eds.), Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (8th ed., pp. 897–908). The McGraw-Hill Companies.
- American Academy of Dermatology. (2019). Acne: Tips for Managing. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/acne/treatment/tips-for-managing-acne