Education > Acne Basics
What is Adult Acne?
More people are suffering from breakouts than ever before, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual meeting this March. Even though over 50% of adults continue to get acne well into adulthood, if you are over 18 and have acne, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one. It’s mortifying enough to have acne as a teenager, but to have it as an adult is downright humiliating. People find themselves hiding from the public or unable to compete for jobs or promotions with clear-faced peers.
Professionals with acne are not taken seriously – a big problem for those who really need credibility not only with their peers but with their own clients. It is tough not to feel like a failure when you have adult acne. And it’s not just women who suffer – there are many adult men who come into our clinic looking for the answer to their supposedly teenage skin care woes.
What causes adult acne?
For most people who suffer from acne, they get to blame their family. It is an inherited tendency of the pores to clog up with dead skin cells too quickly which causes a cascade or acne-forming events to happen. So, some people, author included, never “grow out” of their acne until much older. (I was in my forties). Other people don’t have acne in their teenage years, but start breaking out in their twenties and/or thirties. Why their acne laid “dormant” for their teenage years is a mystery, but as adults, many things can contribute to the onset of acne problems. Stress, medications, comedogenic (pore-clogging) makeup, skin and hair products, pregnancy, birth control pills and smoking are just some of the contributors to chronic breakouts.
- Hormonal fluctuations caused by birth control, Plan B, pregnancy, pms, medications, and menopause can also affect your propensity for breakouts, sometimes causing severe acne flare-ups in women who never got a single pimple as teenagers. If you are acne-prone, choose a birth control method that won’t make your acne worse and learn about the relationship between hormones and acne so you can prepare yourself ahead of time for any changes in your skin that may arise. A condition called pyoderma faciale which mimics acne is a sudden breakout that happens to women in their thirties.
- Medical conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or thyroid disorder can wreak havoc with the skin.
- Medications for bipolar disorder like lithium, thyroid medications, anticonvulsant medications, lo-dose birth control pills, corticosteroids, sobriety drugs, etc, can also cause acne.
- Pore-clogging makeup, skin care and hair care can be a culprit in adult acne. Even if a product says “non pore-clogging” or “noncomedogenic” on the label you cannot trust it. I have seen scores of products claiming this and look at the ingredient deck to see pore-cloggers.
- Smoking can be a culprit when it comes to acne. According to German researchers from Technical University of Munich, report the results of a study which found that smoking is a clinically important contributory factor to acne prevalence and severity.
The difference between adult acne and teenage acne.
One of the challenges of adult acne is that skin generally becomes less oily and more sensitive. Acne products and treatments that worked well in your teen years may dry you out or cause severe irritation. If you had acne as a teen, you may have noticed that acne seems to travel down and across your face as you age. You used to break out on your forehead, and now you break out on your cheeks. Then it goes to the jawline and sometimes the neck. This is because the sebaceous follicles mature in stages. For this reason, adult acne is most commonly concentrated around the cheeks, chin, and/or jawline. It is imperative to use the right strength of acne-clearing products on older skin. Also, starting slowly with a routine allowing the skin to adapt to strong products is an important strategy.
The good news: acne products can also be anti-aging!
People who have had acne since adolescence may be under the impression that their pimples are unstoppable. Adult acne sufferers have usually tried various prescription medications, over-the-counter acne systems and every spa treatment and facial under the sun. The reality is that effective acne treatments and products do exist.
By virtue of their exfoliating properties, some acne products and treatments can be beneficial for anti-aging and/or lightening dark spots and acne scars. At Face Reality Acne Clinic, we advise adult acne sufferers to work closely with our acne specialists for a period of three to four months to achieve a lifetime of clear skin. There is no need for anyone, teen or adult, to be embarrassed and inconvenienced by the ravages of acne and the scars it can leave behind.
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