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Understanding Adult Acne

Understanding Adult Acne
(Photo : Understanding Adult Acne)

No one likes aging, but at least there are certain perks to look forward to. Some women celebrate the end of periods when they reach menopause. Men are relieved when that cracking, squeaky adolescent voice is replaced by a deeper, manly one.

Acne is another thing that is supposed to disappear with age, but that isn't the case for many. If you still have acne at 30, or you never had it before and are now experiencing breakouts at age 65, you're not alone. Though the chance of suffering an acne outbreak lowers with age, adult acne is not uncommon even beyond the 50s.

What Causes Adult Acne?

Women are more likely to reach for acne treatment later in life than men. A survey published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that acne can occur at any life stage.

The study asked more than 1,000 participants aged 20 to over 50 about their experiences with acne. Information was collected from all participants for each decade of their life, yielding the following statistics:

  • More women than men report experiencing acne in each decade.

  • More than 40% of all men and women have had acne breakouts in their 20s.

  • While about 35% of women experienced acne in their 30s, only 20% of men had.

  • More than 35% of women still suffered acne flare-ups in their 40s, compared with only 12% of men.

This tells us that age and gender have something to do with acne, but adult acne is more prevalent than many realize. Women are probably more prone to outbreaks later in life due to hormonal fluctuations during the childbearing years, perimenopause, and menopause. Men experience hormonal fluctuations as well, which is why some males have acne outbreaks into their 30s or beyond.

Beyond age, gender, and hormones, there are other factors that can lead to adult acne outbreaks, such as:

  • Chronic stress

  • Bacteria collecting in pores

  • Oil from hair and skin products, including makeup

  • Foods that contribute to systemic inflammation

  • Anabolic steroids and some other medications

Can You Prevent Adult Acne?

There is no way to ensure you never experience an acne outbreak at any stage of life. Fortunately, there are some lifestyle adjustments you can make that will significantly reduce your risk.

Start by favoring noncomedogenic makeup and skin care products. These products are designed to minimize oils that can clog pores and lead to acne. Product labels for the safest products will include words like "non-acnegenic" and "oil-free" and simple statements like "won't clog pores."

You should also wash your face - gently - morning and night but avoid unnecessary washing during the day. Excessive washing can dry your skin out, leaving you more vulnerable to irritation. To prevent oils from accumulating in your pores, though, you'll likely want to wash after vigorous exercise, too.

In general, make sure everything that touches your face is kept clean. That includes your cellphone as well as pillowcases and other bedding.

Drink a few pints of water daily - or as much as you can get down. Water moisturizes your skin and flushes toxins and bacteria from the pores naturally.

Finally, avoid foods that cause inflammation throughout the body. Two of the biggest culprits are sugar and trans fats. Try reducing intake of those foods for a month or two to see whether it has an impact on your skin. Complete elimination of these foods is best if you do see an improvement.

The Best Options for Adult Acne Treatment

If prevention measures aren't doing the trick, it may be time to bring in the bigger guns. There are different types of acne medication, and they each treat different causes of acne:

  • Azelaic and salicylic acids reduce inflammation and help clear clogged pores.

  • Benzoyl peroxide targets bacterial buildup.

  • Retinoids fight oil in the pores and help reduce clogging of pores.

  • Dapsone reduces inflammation (but may dry out skin and cause irritation).

  • Antibiotics kill bacteria while reducing inflammation and redness.

  • Birth control pills help regulate hormones to reduce acne-inducing fluctuations.

When over-the-counter acne medications aren't effective, a doctor or dermatologist can help by prescribing prescription-strength medications. In some cases, steroid injections are used in combination with other acne treatments.

If you don't know what kind of acne treatment you need, virtual prescription providers may be able to help. They will recommend medications based on your answers to simple questions. You should still research those recommendations and make a final decision based on your own needs.

Wait at least one month before determining the effectiveness of any acne treatment. An effective treatment may start working its magic right away, but it might take time to see visible results.

When Adult Acne Is a Warning

If you haven't had a pimple in ages and suddenly your acne is out of control, your hormones could be out of balance. You should ask your doctor to run some tests to investigate, especially if your acne isn't responsive to treatment.

You may have a more serious underlying condition if you experience acne along with other symptoms, including:

  • Hair loss

  • Excessive unexplained hair growth

  • Fatigue

  • Weight loss or gain

These symptoms can also occur due to hormonal imbalances, but there are other potential causes. Checking with your doctor is always best. If nothing else, you will rule out a larger problem and can continue looking for an effective acne treatment.

Living With Adult Acne

Maybe you expected acne to disappear after young adulthood, but it didn't. Luckily, there is hope. As you enter each new decade, you're less likely to see those annoying blackheads and whiteheads. Even if your acne persists, an ever-growing range of acne treatments and an enhanced skin care regimen can help. Taking great care of your skin will not only minimize your risk of acne but leave you with a youthful glow as well.

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