Acne is traditionally a skin problem associated with teenagers, but increasingly research reveals that adult acne is now dramatically on the rise among adults, in particular in women in their 30’s and 40’s.
Find out what may be causing acne breakouts in your 20‘s and 30’s and how to treat adult acne.
Studies reveal that 50 per cent of women suffer from adult acne at some point in their adult life.
Adult acne often 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.
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.
Unlike teen acne, adult acne is also often accompanied by a red, flushed underlying skin.
Although getting spots in your 30’s seems unfair, unexpected and inexplicable, the good news is that the problem (and solution) of adult onset acne is being increasingly targeted by modern skincare technologies and is more responsive to treatments than teen acne.
Unlike teen acne, which is often temporary but severe and often unresponsive to treatments due to its purely hormonal cause, adult acne is often less severe and can be dramatically improved with modern targeted skincare treatments over a longer period of time.
Here are 5 things that might cause adult acne;
Skin experts believe that an increase in the male hormone, testosterone, is a major cause of adult acne in women. Increased levels of stress, the contraceptive pill and HRT, junk food and high levels of exercise can all lead to an increase in testosterone.
Testosterone creates an excess of sebum — an oily/waxy substance produced by the sebaceous glands to lubricate the skin.
Too much sebum causes a build-up of oil and dead skin cells in hair follicle pores. Bad skin bacteria then make their way to the blockage, and this causes the redness and inflammation of a spot.
Beauty products and cosmetics
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.
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.
Changes in pore structure
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. So products that can help reduce pore size can be helpful for improving adult acne.
The jury is out on whether diet plays any part in the onset of adult acne, although the frequent radical diet changes from low carb to low fat endeavours of modern women (the average woman goes on 15 diets in a lifetime) to lose weight may be having a negative effect on skin as radical changes in diet can cause shifts in hormonal balances.
Low levels of good skin bacteria
Due to over cleansing and the use of too many anti-ageing products and dryness due to age-related moisture loss, often levels of good skin bacteria run low in older skin as the skin microbiome is disturbed. Once this happens skin barrier function and the integrity of the skin is weakened allowed bad skin bacteria to get in more easily into the epidermis, which can lead to bacteria relate adult acne.
How do you treat adult acne?
Adult acne tends to be more persistent than teen acne but in the long run is often more responsive to treatments providing they are gentle and more progressive.
The main issue with treating adult acne is that typically the skin is more sensitive which makes treatments more problematic as if you irritate or aggravate it while treating your acne, you may end up with even more redness, bumps and 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 ‘blitz’ method like teen acne
Here are 5 tips for treating adult acne;
Avoid acne products for oily skin
Spot treatments aimed at teens are not suitable for adult skin as they contain harsh anti-bacterial agents, typically salicylic acid and/or peroxide (bleach), which although are effective at killing all bacteria on the skin’s surface, they strip the skin of all natural oils and leave adult skin incredibly dry and flaky and cause premature ageing.
For 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.
Build up good skin bacteria
The key difference in treating adult acne as opposed to teen acne is maintaining the integrity and balance of good skin bacteria in the healthy skin around the acne, while at the same time attacking the bacteria getting into the acne lesions. It’s crucial that skincare regimes and products do BOTH, as skin is more fragile, drier and more sensitive. Product that contain skin prebiotics to fee good skin bacteria are essential for skin prone to adult acne.
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.
Don’t over cleanse
Adult acne is responsive to the use of facial oils, so instead of stripping the skin of oils with anti-bacterial agents to clean it. Birch bark oil is excellent for keeping skin supple but fighting inflammation from adult 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.
Use a daily mineral SPF to avoid UV related inflammation
Sun damage can further add to inflammation and dryness and therefore damage the skin barrier further which leads to more bad skin bacteria entering the epidermis. Using a daily SPF is crucial for skin prone to adult acne. A mineral SPF containing zinc is idea as pure zinc mineral SPF do not irritated sensitive skin and also have an anti-inflammatory action on spots and underlying redness.
Don’t use sebum blocking products
Many acne products for teen skin claim to block or inhibit sebum production. However, sebum is very important for adult skin as adult skin is prone to dryness and damage and sebum is the skin’s natural moisturiser so adult needs all the sebum it can get. So even if you have adult acne which is caused by infected sebum you should avoid products that claim to inhibit sebum production. A better option is to choose products that help purify and preserve the sebum so that it does not oxidise on the skin’s surface which can then lead to pore blockages and spots.