Yes, adult acne is more common than you think. It affects about 30% of women and 20% of men in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. About one third of adults with facial acne, also have acne on their body – meaning the neck, back, shoulders or arms.
All acne is caused by excess sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands. Sebum clogs pores, which attract bacteria and become inflamed. This ‘oily’ condition is usually reserved for teenagers (although they may have other triggers too). In adults, acne can be caused by:
- Stress – stress hormones can throw off your equilibrium which can affect all sorts of changes in the body, including the onset of acne.
- Hormonal imbalance – in men, this can be due to an over production of androgens (the most well know androgen is testosterone). In women, it’s estrogen levels that can cause adult acne. This can occur during premenstrual flare-ups, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.
- Some medications, such as corticosteroids can contribute to the development of adult acne.
- Cosmetics can also cause an outbreak of adult acne.
Treating Adult Acne
Treating adult acne can be tricky. Most acne medications are geared toward teenage skin which is very oily. Unless your skin is very oily, then treating adult acne with these products is not a good idea – adult skin is typically drier and more sensitive.
A better approach is to evaluate your skin type so you select the right products for your skin, and avoid overly harsh products.
Cleansers: Gentle cleansers such as Cetaphil and Aquanil are more appropriate for cleaning adult skin with acne. Avoid strong gels and products containing beads or granules, which are abrasive and can irritate sensitive skin.
Creams and lotions: Use an over-the-counter retinol product to clean pores and help reduce fine wrinkles. Prevent discoloration and fade acne scars with products that contain salicylic and glycolic acids. To spot-treat pimples, use a product with sulfur to help heal blemishes overnight!
Prescription medications: Prescription-strength topical and oral medications help fight bacteria in the skin. Other medications like oral contraceptives and some blood pressure medications can help balance hormones. Obviously, your doctor will be the one to evaluate the right oral or topical medication to control your adult acne.
High-tech solutions: Laser and intense pulsed light treatments are good for improving the condition of the skin and treating acne scars. Blue light therapy treatments will kill acne-causing bacteria and treat active adult acne.
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