Acne is one of the most common skin conditions among people of all ages. Though often associated with puberty as a rite of passage that many teenagers go through, acne can also persist to adulthood. Women in particular have a higher rate of prevalence, with acne affecting even those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
While the occurrence decreases over time, acne, if left untreated, can leave scars and have a long-lasting effect on your morale and self-esteem. Fortunately, there are reliable acne treatments for adults that can address the inflammation and significantly reduce the chances of scarring.
But before getting into the treatments, let’s first take a look into what adult acne is and what causes it.
Adult acne, as with teen acne, can be caused by your skin glands producing excess sebum leading to clogged pores or by an acne-causing bacteria P. acnes. However, what often causes adult acne is unique to post-adolescents, and can include chronic stress, medications, and fluctuations in hormones caused by pregnancies, menstruation, or menopause. The last reason is why women are more likely to develop acne than men, although men may also develop acne when experiencing physical or emotional stress.
There are two subtypes of adult acne: persistent, which is the continuation or relapse of teen acne, and the less common late onset, which is the acne breakout in adults who haven’t experienced it before.
Adult acne also tends to be redder and more sensitive as these are often caused by inflammation and usually occur at the lower part of the face, including the jaw, chin, and mouth. Breakouts can also happen around the neck and chest area. Since adults have slower skin regeneration compared to teens, acne scars may take longer to heal, and may become a contributing factor to negative self-image and low self-esteem.
There are many factors that can trigger a breakout of acne in adults, but they can be generally classified into biological factors and lifestyle factors.
Biological or internal factors are those that are beyond your control or are the side-effects of medications you may need to take for proper body function. These factors include:
Certain health conditions
Reaction to medications
Lifestyle factors are external factors that affect our health and well-being and may bring about the appearance of acne on our skin. Let’s find out more below:
Other lifestyle factors
Fortunately, adult acne can still be addressed through proper treatment and prevented through the cultivation of healthy habits. Here’s how you can take care of your skin and prevent breakouts:
1. Choose the right treatment solutions.
For moderate to severe acne, treatment solutions can either be oral or topical. For oral treatments, there are antibiotics to reduce acne-causing bacteria and inflammation, anti-androgen drugs to prevent androgen hormones from stimulating production of sebum, and FDA-approved combinations of oral contraceptives that combine progesterone and progestin.
For topical treatments, there are retinoid creams geared towards preventing the clogging of hair follicles, antibiotics used in conjunction with retinoid creams, and azelaic acid that also has antibacterial properties.
Salicylic acid and nitric oxide are also two of the topical treatments used to address acne flare-ups. Extracted from willow bark, salicylic acid has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and comedolytic (comedone-inhibiting) properties that make it an effective solution against acne. For moderate to severe acne, you can try treatment solutions that combine salicylic acid with nitric oxide, which promotes healing and reduces inflammation.
2. Use appropriate hair and skincare products.
When choosing the right product for your hair and skin, look for those that are oil-free, non-comedogenic, and non-acnegenic. These will lessen the chances of flare-ups, but do take note that finding the right product for you may take some trial and error; each skin type is different and there are other factors involved in breakouts. Also, when you’re having an acne breakout, try to use makeup sparingly.
3. Wash your face twice a day.
While it may be tempting to wash your face as often as you can, doing so more than twice a day stimulates the production of excess oil and may cause skin irritation. Wash your face in the morning and in the evening before going to bed. Use warm water and a mild cleanser, and pat dry your face with a soft, clean towel. Avoid scrubbing your face as this may further irritate your skin.
On a related note, if you also tend to have oily hair, wash your hair frequently as the oil in your hair may add to the oil on your face.
4. Develop healthy habits.
Besides causing or aggravating health problems, certain lifestyle habits such as smoking or sleeping late are also contributing factors to acne breakouts. Try to cut back, if not outright quit smoking to lessen chances of developing smoker’s acne. Also, try to sleep at a regular time each night, ideally by 11pm and for at least 7 hours to give your body ample time to rest and recover.
Switching over to a low-GI diet can also help prevent or reduce the frequency of occurrence of acne breakouts. Foods rich in omega-3 such as fish, nuts, spinach, kale, and soy products may help reduce inflammation and would be a good addition to your meals.
5. Consult with your dermatologist.
If your acne condition has not improved with medication and lifestyle changes, consult with your dermatologist. Acne breakouts can be symptomatic of other health problems. Your dermatologist may also prescribe you different medication that can help alleviate the breakout or shed light as to what may be causing your acne.
Having adult acne doesn’t necessarily mean you have to resign yourself to simply living with it as a matter of fact. Understanding the cause of your acne goes a long way in helping to address flare-ups. Various acne treatments for adults are also available to help you deal with breakouts and with the proper treatment and appropriate lifestyle changes, adult acne can be effectively managed.
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