Teens often feel like acne is the absolute worst thing in the world. They can’t fathom an affliction that could be more terrible than the one that covers their faces in red, white, and black spots, and they look forward to their twenties when it will all go away. Unfortunately, for nearly 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men, acne never seems to go away. Adult acne is as frustrating as it is mysterious: How can you still be developing pimples when your friends’ skin cleared years ago? Here’s some info about your continued struggle with acne as well as some best practices to keep your skin as clear as it was before puberty.
What Is Adult Acne?
Adult acne is exactly the same as adolescent acne. Sebaceous glands within the skin producea substance called sebum, an essential oil that protects your skin from drying out and prematurely aging. While sebum is absolutely necessary for skin health, sebaceous glands are particularly susceptible to hormonal changes, which mean they have the tendency to overproduce sebum during turbulent points in life. The excess sebum seeps into pores; however, contrary to popular belief, sebum itself isn’t what causes acne.
The problem is that sebum is particularly delectable to certain types of bacteria. The bacteria themselves also don’t necessarily cause breakouts. In fact, they live perennially on skin’s surface, but when they chase sebum into your skin’s pores, they trigger your immune system. The immune system inflames the skin and sends in white blood cells to combat the potential bacterial infection, which unhappy teens and adults see as the dreaded whitehead.
Why Does Adult Acne Happen?
Acne has various root causes, especially in adults. As previously stated, hormones are most often the culprits behind breakouts. An imbalance between male and female hormones (androgens and estrogens) can confuse the sebaceous glands, as can an excess of male hormones. Women usually experience these hormonal changes during certain phases of their menstrual cycles, during pregnancy, or during menopause. However, the modern world presents many stressors which can put the endocrine system (the body’s hormone regulator) in a tailspin, and much of our food contains unfamiliar hormones which can trigger bodily response.
For some acne sufferers, hormones aren’t the problem at all. Some medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, can initiate breakouts. Corticosteroids are known to have this side effect. Additionally, some cosmetics act just like sebum, clogging pores and attracting bacteria, which means they cause pimples. One or more of these triggers could be the root cause of your annoying affliction.
How Do I Treat Adult Acne?
The important thing to learn is that your adult acne is completely manageable. Many adults feel their acne is untreatable because the same techniques they used as teens aren’t resolving their current condition — but teen acne products aren’t appropriate for adult skin. Common teen acne products use as much as 10 percent benzoyl peroxide or 2 percent salicylic acid to kill bacteria and wash away sebum, but that much of those ingredients is much too harsh for delicate adult face skin.
Luckily, most over-the-counter acne medications come in varying strengths to provide aid to different skin types. Adult acne sufferers should stick to benzoyl peroxide products in the 2 percent range and salicylic acid products around .5 percent. If these products still don’t clear up your breakouts, seek out the help of a dermatologist. He or she may be able to recommend certain practices and provide prescription acne treatments to clean up your skin.
To keep skin clear and fresh, you should stick to a strict washing regimen and avoid frequently switching cleansers or cosmetics. Additionally, avoid touching your face throughout the day to keep it clean. The video below provides a simple guide to face washing techniques. Generally, you want to use lukewarm water (hot water will dry and irritate the skin) and your hands (washcloths are too rough) to work cleanser into your skin for one or two minutes.
The old myths you memorized as a teen about acne aren’t true: You can indulge all you want in chocolate, cranberries, and fried foods without seeing a single pimple. In fact, if these snacks help you de-stress, they could help in banishing your current acne. Since stress is a major cause of hormonal changes, you should do anything you can to keep your stress levels in check. Try not to overwork yourself, and avoid worrying about small matters that are easily resolved. You should also integrate relaxing activities into your weekly schedule; exercise — yoga in particular — often soothes the nerves, and a spa day every once in a while can do wonders for tense minds.
If you suffer from adult acne, it can feel as significant a problem as it did when you were a teen. However, by changing your strategy to comply with your older and more delicate skin, you can vanquish your pimples as handily as you did in adolescence.