How to Break Out of Adult Acne

By Dani Spano
Adult Acne

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought your teenage self must be looking back at you? You can thank adult acne for that. Unfortunately, acne, an inflammatory skin condition, is not just for kids! And even if you did not experience the teenage angst of a breakout, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, you can still experience acne as an adult.

Types and causes of adult acne

A study in India defined two types of adult acne; persistent (acne that persists beyond the age of 25) and late-onset (acne appearing for the first time after the age of 25). The study also confirmed that both types are more often found in women, with adult-onset most common in women going through menopause. Many of the causes of adult acne relate more to women, which explains its gender predominance. Fluctuating hormone levels from menstruation, pregnancy and several birth control methods can lead to acne breakouts. Additionally, hair and skin products such as moisturizer, makeup and sunscreen can clog pores and produce acne. Stress, something we can all relate to, also triggers the body to create androgens, a hormone that can cause acne. Other members of your family having adult acne can suggest you have a genetic predisposition to the affliction. A reaction to a medication or undiagnosed medical condition is also a cause, whereas the acne may clear once the medication is changed or the condition treated. Foods high in carbohydrates, such as white grains and sweets, have been linked to acne, but are not a main cause in adults. Overall, eating a balanced diet does benefit your skin.

How should you treat adult acne?

According to Consumer Reports, Americans spend over $400 million a year on over-the-counter acne treatments. A good rule of thumb is to wash with a mild cleanser a few times each day. Use facial products that will not clog pores, such as mineral-based makeup and oil-free creams. Do not irritate or squeeze the pimples and avoid overusing acne products. Your dermatologist can help you determine a regimen that may include retinoids (topical products made with Vitamin A) or antibiotics that will work best on your skin type to clear up the type of acne from which you suffer. Also note that medications that work well on teens may dry out the skin and even accelerate skin aging in adults, so it is always best to consult with your dermatologist before trying a new product. With a little time and the right regimen of products, you can take care of your skin to keep it looking young — but without the acne!

Teenage vs. adult acne

All this talk about breakouts may sound like déjà vu, but there really is a difference between the acne of your adolescence and adulthood. “Young adolescents typically have acne that involves the forehead, nose, chin, in addition to the chest and back,” Dr. Kiran Motaparthi, assistant professor of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said. “In contrast, adult women often complain of acne involving the lower face and neck.” Additionally, skin is typically excessively oily in teenage years with a more constant presence of blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. Adults with acne often also suffer from dry skin with breakouts that are more intermittent. While adult-onset acne is defined as occurring after the age of 25, it can happen anytime from your 30s to your 50s. Life is just full of little surprises, right?


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