According to the latest statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology, 54% of women over the age of 25 have acne, making female adult acne now one of the most common skin complaints of adult women.

acne 1However with the rise of adult acne, many people are confused about what is the difference between teen acne and adult acne and why and how should the two conditions be treated differently?

If you’re an adult and you’re breaking out, there’s nothing that you want more than to find an effective acne treatment. But whether you’ve had acne-prone skin for your entire life or whether your acne just began as an adult, there are some crucial differences between teen acne and adult acne that you’ll want to know about in order to help refine your acne treatment regimen.

Here we explain why teen and adult acne are different and how they should be treated.

Teen acne

What causes teen acne?

teen acne 2Teen acne is caused by an overproduction of sebum triggered by hormonal spikes due to the changing hormones in the body going through puberty.

[quote]Approximately 80% of teenagers get acne at some stage of their puberty.[/quote]

What does teen acne look like?

Teen acne is typically characterised by breakouts in the T zone, which is between the eyes, forehead and the nose and tends to appear as individual blackheads, whiteheads or pustules.

What is the skin type of teen acne?

The skin type of teen acne is usually either oily or normal with oily patches

How do you treat teen acne?

Teen acne usually responds well over the counter acne treatment options containing anti-bacteria agents, namely benzoyl peroxide, which is a type of bleach for the skin. Because teenagers typically have oily skin, the over the counter acne solutions are geared toward this skin type. [quote]However over use or long term use of these products can lead to skin becoming drier and more sensitive, which in turn can then trigger sensitive skin adult acne later on.[/quote]

teen acne 4Regular cleansing is very important for teen acne. Teens should wash skin twice daily with a gentle but effective cleanser for acne-prone skin. Most of these products contain an agent called salicylic acid. Salicylic acid can exfoliate the skin as well as decrease inflammation. The cells in the lining of the hair follicles of teens with acne tend to multiply quickly, and stick to one another. Salicylic acid works by dissolving this cement that holds those sticky cells together in the clogged pores.

[quote]Salicylic acid is very similar in composition to aspirin, so crushing up an aspirin and mixing it with some natural yogurt makes just as an effective (and cheap) facial exfoliant as more expensive exfoliating products containing salicylic acid.[/quote]

All products containing salicylic acid or aspirin should be thoroughly washed off the skin after exfoliating as they can stain the skin permanently and cause irritation if left on the skin for long periods of time.

Cheap greasy formulation sun creams and heavy cover foundations or compacts can also add to the problem of teen acne by clogging up pores with additional grease or wax based agents.

Mineral sun creams containing zinc and multi-tasking lighter formulation foundations or tinted moisturisers with anti-bacterial and good skin flora agents in them can help keep acne breakouts to a minimum. In addition medicated spot cover ups can help treat and camouflage spots at the same time.

Future developments for treating teen acne

One of the most recent developments for treating acne are agents that help prevent the sebum in a spot from ‘rotting’, which is what makes the puss in the spot go from white to yellow or green.

[quote]Like all organic material when exposed to heat and light, the sebum in a spot quickly goes off and that is when the spot becomes rancid and can lead to infection and scarring. Products are currently in development to stop this process by essentially acting as ‘sebum preservatives’ to stop the sebum going off.[/quote]

Adult Acne

What causes adult acne?

Adult acne is usually caused by hormonal fluctuations from pregnancy and menopause. Stress is the other main cause of adult acne as high stress levels can cause more exaggerated hormonal fluctuations in adult women.

[quote]Men can also get adult acne but women are at least twice as likely to have adult acne than men[/quote]

Adult acne can also be triggered by over sensitive skin due to a build up intolerance to chemicals in skincare and cosmetics products, leading to acne-like reactions to skin care products and cosmetics.

[quote]Adult acne accompanied by flushing and redness is caused by changes and weakening in the vascular structure of the blood vessels of beneath the skin that gets worse with age.[/quote]

In addition as you age, the strength of the cellular wall of a pore weakens. This makes the pore stretch out and become larger, which means that it may be more likely for the pore to become clogged with surface dirt and debris from your skin’s top layer (the epidermis). While most adult acne is caused by hormonal shifts, the changes in the structure of your skin and the size of your pores due to ageing could lead to ‘patches’ of inflamed blemishes.

What does adult acne look like?

adult acne 3Adult acne occurs lower in the face and is usually found around the mouth, on the jaw line, and on the chin and is often paired with sensitivity or dehydration, making treatment that much more difficult.

[quote]Adult acne is often formed as clumps of smaller pussy or bumpy spots under the surface rather than individual larger blackheads or pustules as with teen acne. Adult acne is often accompanied by a red, flushed rash.[/quote]

What is the skin type of adult acne?

Adult acne skin type is usually sensitive and combination skin, so oily in patches yet very dry and sensitive in others.

How do you treat adult acne?

Ironically adult acne tends to be more persistent than teen acne and is more complicated to treat.

[quote]The skin on the bottom of your face is typically more sensitive than elsewhere on your face, which is why adult acne is more prone to sensitivity issues. It also makes treating the acne more problematic as if you irritate or aggravate it while treating your acne, you may end up with even more redness, bumps and irritation.[/quote]

So with adult acne its best to try and avoid products aimed at oily acne prone skin or teen skin which contain anti-bacterial chemicals such as benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid. It’s also best to avoid any product with any more than 2% salicylic acid in it, as this really strips the skin of oils and can dry it out and cause further irritation.

Adult acne responds well to combinations of more natural, gentle and multi-action anti-acne skincare regimes. It can’t just be treated with one method like teen acne

[quote]The key difference in treating adult acne as opposed to teen acne is maintaining the integrity and balance of the healthy skin around the acne, while at the same time attacking the bacteria getting into the acne lesions. Its crucial that skincare regimes and products do BOTH, as skin is more fragile, drier and more sensitive.[/quote]

oily fishAdult acne is responsive to the usage of facial oils, so instead of stripping the skin of oils with anti-bacterial agents, feed the skin with oils that also guard against spots, hopefully slowing down the body’s overproduction of sebum. Birch bark oil is excellent for keeping skin supple but fighting inflammation from rosacea type acne.

Over-cleansing can irritate blemishes and dry out adult acne skin. Water-free cleansing just once a day can help as it doesn’t strip the natural oils away from the face while cleaning the surface of the skin.

birch juiceIt’s not proven but is widely agreed that diet plays more of a role in adult acne than teen acne. High sugar foods can play a role on worsening adult acne. Also olives are often a trigger for adult acne as is alcohol and spicy food for rosacea-type acne.

Omega 3’s and 6’s from fish oils or rape seed oil have been shown to help reduce underlying inflammation of adult type acne so regular intake of oil fish can help reduce symptoms.

Birch products, soaps, body oils and also elixir’s to drink,  can help reduce inflammation from adult rosacea-type acne.

[quote]Skin care products containing caper extract has also been shown to help reduce skin redness and inflammation and is particularly effective for acne rosacea.[/quote]

capersSun creams or daily moisturisers contain pure zinc can also help with rashy and inflammed or rosacea-type adult acne as the zinc acts as potent anti-inflammatory.

Future developments for treating adult acne

A more recent development in treating and managing adult acne is by using products that increase the levels of good bacteria on the surface of the skin.

[quote]Higher levels of good skin bacteria on the surface of the skin helps in two ways, it reduces the levels of bad bacteria which can get into acne lesions and blocked pores and cause swelling and puss, it also helps strengthen the integrity of older skin, helping to reduce pore stretching which can lead to acne.[/quote]