If you're an adult dealing with acne, you may be feeling a sense of isolation. After all, acne is supposed to be something that only teenagers should have to deal with right? Wrong. Welcome to the growing number of people over the age of 18 coping with adult acne. Despite the hopes of millions of teenagers, becoming an adult doesn’t shut the door on those pesky acne breakouts.
What's the story behind the epidemic of adult acne and its ever-increasing numbers? Here are some facts that may surprise you…
Adult Acne Statistics
While you might feel that having adult acne sets you apart, people who don't have at least one form of acne are
A study published in Journal of Women's Health breaks that number down even further. Out of nearly 3,000 subjects, 28 percent had mild acne while 27 percent had more severe clinical acne. Of the latter group, it was nearly a 50-50 split between inflammatory acne and comedonal acne, primarily involving whiteheads.actually in the minority. In fact, the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology states that 54 percent of all women aged 25 and over have at least one type of facial acne.
Adult acne is more predominant in women than in men and does appear to become less widespread the older you get. The Women's Health study showed that 45 percent of acne sufferers were in their twenties, decreasing to 26 percent of those in their thirties and only 12 percent of those in their forties.
While acne affects more males then females during adolesence, the situation is reversed during adulthood. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a survey of adults aged 20 and over showing that the percentage of men and women who reported having acne as teens was nearly the same, while the numbers of women with adult acne far surpassed the men.
Hormones are one of the primary culprits behind acne, and that's no different during adulthood. Compared to men, whose hormone levels are relatively stable, women continue to experience fluctuations due to menstrual cycles, pregnancy and perimenopause.
One exception occurs with men who take steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. These substances significantly increase levels of the male hormones androgen and testosterone, making acne a common side effect of steroids and PED use.
What Causes Adult Acne?
Acne occurs when glands in the skin begin overproducing oil, causing pores to become clogged with dirt, bacteria and other debris. This process remains the same in adult acne, but some of the triggers can change.
- Hormones. This is a driving force behind teenage acne as well, but it's the natural changes of adolescence that can dramatically fluctuate hormone levels. Women will continue to experience hormone fluctuations right through menopause.
- Stress. Stress itself does not cause acne. It comes into play when high stress levels cause an increase in oil production. Career, family, and financial concerns can all add up to significant “stressors” which can spike oil production and trigger acne breakouts.
- Smoking. The medical community is still undecided as to whether or not smoking directly causes acne. What they do know is that smoking increases the body's inflammatory response and interferes with the healing process, two factors that can negatively affect acne. Smoking also produces free radicals that reduce collagen and age skin, making it more vulnerable to scarring.
- Medications. While fairly uncommon, certain medications, such as anti-convulsants, can sometimes trigger breakouts as well.
- Cosmetics. As women grow older, they sometimes turn to heavier, oil-based skin care products in an effort to reduce the signs of aging. In addition, they might use more makeup in an effort to retain a more youthful complexion as well. In combination, heavier moisturizing products and make up use will more frequently clog pores and create conditions that are ripe for acne breakouts.
Emotional Impact of Adult Acne
You might think that adults are better equipped to deal with the emotional effects of acne, but in reality it's still a huge blow to self-esteem. Even though most women experience one form of acne or another, there is still a social stigma associated with it. Those who have acne believe, rightly or wrongly, that others assume they have poor grooming habits. Women with jobs and careers often feel self-conscious interacting with people on a professional basis.
If you are an adult female with acne, you aren't doomed to wait it out until menopause. Your dermatologist can suggest a variety of options and help you decide which is your best solution.