When you’re a teenager suffering from acne, you may hold on to the faint comfort that you’ll eventually outgrow it. In reality though, acne can play a significant role in adulthood as well. Even people who made it through the teen years without acne can sometimes find themselves experiencing breakouts in their 20s, 30s, and into their 40s.
Just as your adult body is nowhere near the same as your adolescent body, adult acne has different characteristics compared to teenage acne as well. The methods and products that work well with a more youthful skin care routine are not necessarily ones that will work for an adult complexion.
Fortunately, dermatologists take the problem of adult acne just as seriously as they do with teenagers, and have gained valuable insight on its major causes and treatments. Here is a quick look at the nature of adult acne along with top skin care tips and suggestions from dermatologists for treatment.
- How Does Adult Acne Develop?
- Differences between Adult Acne and Teenage Acne
- Emotional Effects of Adult Acne
- Quick & Easy Dermatologist Tips for Treating
How Does Adult Acne Develop?
Teenage acne is driven primarily by adolescent hormonal changes that send oil glands into overdrive, resulting in plugs of trapped dirt and bacteria clogging pores. Your body has fully matured by adulthood, but you are still susceptible to hormonal fluctuations due to factors such as PMS, pregnancy, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
A lifestyle filled with the stresses of adulthood can also trigger acne breakouts. Dealing with day-to-day responsibilities of family, work and financial concerns may increase your body’s stores of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone” that initiates the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol is broken down into the male hormone testosterone, which in turn increases oil production.
Some researchers claim that the increased pressures of modern life and environmental risk factors such as pollution have resulted in an epidemic of adult acne. The lack of solid statistical evidence, however, has caused some experts to believe it may simply be more adults seeking medical help today than have in the past that are now being diagnosed with adult acne.
Differences between Adult Acne and Teenage Acne
Location is one of the biggest tip-offs to adult acne. Teenagers tend to break out in the “T-zone,” which includes the forehead, nose and chin. Breakouts from adult acne are usually limited to the lower part of the face on the chin and jawline and may sometimes appear on the neck as well.
Collagen and elastin are proteins that hold skin cells together and allow them to keep their shape after being stretched or squeezed. Healthy amounts of collagen and elastin are responsible for youthful skin’s smooth appearance. As you age, production of these proteins slows down, causing fine lines and wrinkles to set in. Skin becomes thinner and less able to withstand many of the strong acne-fighting products used by teens. Acne just takes longer to heal as you get older with the natural healing process taking longer in your 30’s and 40’s compared to your teenage years.
Emotional Effects of Adult Acne
Suffering with acne can be even more detrimental to self-esteem as an adult than it was as a teenager. In fact, a 2014 study conducted by researchers from the School of Medicine at Wake Forest University found that adult acne often had the same impact on an individual’s perceived quality of life as living with a chronic disease. While teenage acne in many ways is considered a rite of passage for the young, some mistakenly assume that adult acne is caused by poor personal hygiene and just not washing your face enough.
Quick & Easy Dermatologist Tips for Treating Adult Acne:
1. Wash with a gentle cleanser
Thinner adult skin is more likely to become enflamed and irritated by the aggressive cleansers formulated for teenagers. Strong anti-acne products will also sap moisture from skin that’s already dry. Look for gentle, natural pore cleansers such as tea tree oil and bakuchiol. Tea tree oil comes from a tree species found in Australia that has antiseptic properties that kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. Bakuchiol is a naturally occurring compound derived from the bakuchi seed that’s been used for centuries, containing anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory like properties that calm redness and help reduce the hyperpigmentation that accompanies acne scars.
2. Follow up with moisturizer
Moisturizer use is always beneficial, but it becomes completely necessary in your adult years to replenish dwindling levels of hydration. Surprisingly, dry skin makes it easier for dirt and debris to become trapped in oil-clogged pores.
3. Go easy with exfoliation
Washing with an exfoliating face scrub intuitively seems like the best way to get rid of those blackheads and whiteheads. Most abrasive exfoliants are far too harsh for adult skin though, so they can be more damaging than healing. Choose a brand that uses more naturally occurring exfoliating properties such as alpha hydroxy or salicylic acids.
4. Make salicylic acid your new best friend
Salicylic acid could be considered a wonder ingredient for adult acne treatments. It’s powerful enough to destroy acne-causing bacteria, but it’s also effective at exfoliating and reducing discoloration, making it beneficial for adult skin. Apply a toner or serum containing salicylic acid just before you moisturize.
5. Take a break from makeup
Go makeup-free at least one day a week to give your complexion a break. When you do wear makeup, choose products that are water-based to add hydration. Items labeled “non-comedogenic” are specifically formulated to avoid blocking pores. No matter how tired you are, never go to sleep at night before carefully removing all makeup.
6. Consider prescription treatments
- Prescription-strength retinoids speed up the regeneration of skin cells and help keep collagen from breaking down.
- With its anti-androgen properties, spironolactone is a diuretic used to treat high blood pressure but has also been successfully used to treat acne.
- Birth-control pills have a scientifically established positive impact on acne.
7. Find outlets for stress
Finding outlets for stress is critical for your overall well being including your overall skin care. You can easily lower stress levels with pleasurable activities like yoga, meditation, exercise, and visits with friends instead of letting the stress manifest itself through your oil glands and pores.
Whether it’s late-onset adult acne or just a continuation of acne from your teenage years, don’t let your acne condition make you feel hopeless, no matter how slight or severe your condition might be. Talk to your dermatologist about these tips and other treatments for adult acne.