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Adult Acne: Why it’s Happening to You and How You Can Beat It




Acne is well known to be the bane of the teenage years. Some people, however, are sadly plagued with spots, breakouts and troubled skin way beyond their teens. Acne can carry on regardless of age, perhaps even into a person’s 40s and 50s.

When this happens, it is known as adult acne.

Adult acne isn’t fun. For starters, it seems grossly unfair. Everyone seemed to promise that the spots would disappear once your teenage years are done, and that great skin would return for your 20s and beyond. For many, that just doesn’t happen.

If you’re suffering from adult acne, you’ll almost certainly be desperate to get rid of it. It can make you feel self-conscious and embarrassed, and can even cause pain and discomfort in some cases.

Thankfully, there is no reason to suffer. Adult acne can be treated. However, before finding a treatment, it is best to understand what may be causing your adult acne.

What Causes Adult Acne?

Spots and acne (in all ages) usually occur when the sebaceous glands just under your skin produce an excess of sebum. Sebum is an oily substance and its job is to lubricate the skin and the tiny hairs on it, to keep them from drying out. However, if too much sebum is produced, it can mix with dirt and dead skin and plug up your pores.

These plugged-up pores may appear as a bulging whitehead or a blackhead. When bacteria contaminate the blocked pores, then angrier, more raised pimples, pustules or cysts may occur, too.

If you’re getting adult acne, you’re more likely to be female than male. However, adult acne does affect a large number of men as well. One reason adult acne affects more females is differing hormone levels.

While there can be many causes, hormone-related problems are often the root cause of adult acne. Read on to find out what may be causing your skin to flare up.

1.     Hormonal imbalances

Fluctuating hormone levels are the number one cause of acne. The surge of hormones in the teenage years is the reason young people are more likely to suffer from the condition.

However, hormone surges can be troublesome way beyond your teens. For females, hormones can wreak havoc on your skin as your body goes through its menstrual cycle, through pregnancy, through peri-menopause, and then menopause. If you are taking medication that interferes with hormone levels, then you may also have troublesome skin.

Unfortunately, the sebaceous glands are very sensitive to hormone changes. An increased level of some hormones (it is thought testosterone is largely to blame) causes the glands to produce too much sebum, causing spots.

2.     Stress

Stress can cause chaos for hormone levels. When we are under stress, levels of certain hormones may spike, causing the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive.

3.     The environment

Throughout the day, dirt and pollution floating in the air can coat the skin. If you live in a city or work in an environment where the air is not fresh and clean, this may have a significant impact on your skin. If not regularly removed, the layer of dirt and pollution on your skin will mix with the skin’s natural oils and clog pores.

4.     Medication

Acne can be a side effect of some types of medication, particularly if they are designed to interfere with hormone levels. It is worth checking the information provided with your medication to see if there might be a link to your acne.

5.     Diet

Despite old wives’ tales, research has not found a clear, strong link between any particular food and acne. Some studies suggest that high amounts of sugar, or dairy products, may contribute to acne. Research is ongoing.

However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that your skin is more likely to thrive on a healthy diet and lots of water, and may suffer in general if you are not eating or drinking well. Without a good diet, it can be hard to get beautiful, dewy and glowing skin.   

So, while your diet may not be a direct cause of acne, it may not be helping you overcome the problem, and may actually be making things a little worse.

6.     Skin care routines

It’s important to look after your skin with a skin care routine, but not all products suit all skin types. It is possible that you may be using products that are designed for a different skin type, and are therefore clogging up your pores. In particular, watch out for oil-based products if you are prone to spots.

If you don’t have a regular skin care routine and are not properly cleansing your skin, then this may also be the cause of your spots.

7.     An underlying illness

Very occasionally, adult acne may be caused by a health issue. Sometimes, adult acne sufferers may even be unaware of this underlying illness until they visit a medical professional. It is always worth discussing this possibility with your family doctor if you are worried.

A Combination of Factors

It is typical that adult acne is caused by more than one of the above factors (it is often a combination of at least two). Therefore, you may need to make more than one change to see a difference in your skin.

Here are some of the changes to consider making.

How Can You Treat Adult Acne?

1.     Visit a dermatologist

A professional dermatologist is always the best person to turn to. A dermatologist is a fully trained and highly knowledgeable professional. They can most accurately assess your skin and the possible causes of acne, and suggest the appropriate treatment.

Visiting a dermatologist and following their advice will almost certainly be the fastest way to get your acne under control.

2.     Keep skin clean

No matter what other treatments your dermatologist suggests, they will always recommend keeping your skin clean. Blocked pores are much less likely to emerge if your skin is clean.

Professionals recommend that you cleanse your skin twice a day with a suitable product. This will wash away excess oils, pollution, makeup and any other dirt on your skin. A dermatologist can recommend an appropriate skin cleansing product for your skin.

Beware of washing skin more often than twice a day; this can dry out your skin and upset its delicate pH balance, creating additional skin problems.

3.     Maintain a good skin care routine

There are other steps you can add to a good skin care routine, aside from cleansing.

For example, using a moisturizer suitable for acne-prone skin will help keep your skin looking at its best. Your skin may also benefit from an occasional deep-cleanse or regular exfoliation to reinvigorate and remove dead skin. However, exfoliation can sometimes irritate acne-prone skin, as can any mismatched product, so it is definitely worth seeking your dermatologist’s advice on a suitable cleansing, moisturizing and exfoliation routine.

4.     Avoid wearing too much makeup

If you are trying to keep your skin clean, it makes sense to avoid makeup as much as possible. If you do want to continue to wear makeup, always remove it thoroughly at the end of the day. Otherwise, makeup residue will only add to clogged pores.

5.     Reduce stress

To avoid stress hormones affecting your skin, try to minimize stress in your life. Although it is easier said than done, try to avoid situations that cause anxiety or create more reasons for you to worry and feel out of sorts. Take time out for calming activities and self-care. Try spending more time with the people you love, enjoying your hobbies, taking time out for a yoga class, or resting and relaxing whenever you can.

6.     Eat a nutritious diet

To give your skin a nutritional boost, eat well. Try to add lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet. Consider cutting down on sugar and dairy products to see if this makes a difference. Always make sure your diet is balanced with enough fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals.

7.     Drink lots of water

Water is vital to the human body. Without enough water, your body can’t properly flush out toxins, and cells (including skin cells) will not be adequately hydrated. Dehydration will affect the condition of your skin.  

Because excess oil and hormones are often the root cause of adult acne, more water is unlikely to be a single magic cure for the condition. However, it will certainly help. It is beneficial for everyone, acne sufferer or not, to drink plenty of water.

8.     Exercise

There are many benefits of regular exercise. For one, exercise also helps your body eliminate toxins. When you sweat, aside from removing toxins, you’ll also help your skin lose dead cells. Just be sure to wash up after exercising so that old sweat doesn’t sit on your skin and undo your hard work.

By exercising, you’ll also be releasing endorphins around your body.  Endorphins are good hormones that lower your stress levels, and consequently, the production of hormones that may be affecting your skin.

Some Final Dos and Don’ts

Once you’ve seen a dermatologist, identified the probable cause of your adult acne, and made appropriate changes to your skin care routine and overall lifestyle, good skin should be on the horizon. However, there are a few additional things to remember:

  • Don’t use home remedies

Years of scientific research have gone into quality skin care products and acne treatments, so it is unlikely that any home remedy you’ve spotted or heard about can have an equally positive effect on your skin. Not only that, home remedies can be dangerous. Even everyday items such as baking soda, lemon and toothpaste can have nasty effects on your skin, and can even cause burns, when used improperly.

It is always worth investing in professional advice and quality products.

  • Do avoid harsh products

Different skin types react differently to different products. Avoid harsh products that will strip your skin of natural oils. It is recommended that you use only the products suggested by your dermatologist.

  • Do wear sunscreen

Finally, all skin should be protected from sun damage, so always wear sunscreen when you are outside in the sun. You need to wear the right SPF for your skin type to ensure you are adequately protected.

Vandana Luthra founded <a href=""VLCC in New Delhi, India as a beauty and slimming services centre in 1989. Today, it is widely recognized for its comprehensive portfolio of beauty and wellness products and services and also enjoys a high level of consumer trust. The VLCC Group’s operations currently span 330 locations in over 150 cities and 14 countries across Asia and Africa.