It is not unusual for us to see clients in their 30s, 40s or even in their 50s suffer from breakouts and acne. In fact, we are seeing more and more women in their adult years come to see us upset about their breakouts. Confused, they tell us they can't understand why they are getting acne, after all, they are no longer teenagers.
So what is causing this increase we are seeing in adult women suffering from acne? If you search for answers online, you will learn that acne is caused by excess oil in the skin which is trapped in the hair follicles and causes infection. This may be true for younger people, however, this kind of lesions look very different to the type of acne we see in adult women.
During teenage years, some people develop an oily skin due to the hormonal spike they experience during puberty. The excess oil and a build up of dead cells cause blockages in the pores, which go on to become infected and you end up with lesions with a pustular head. The surrounding skin will often also have clogging, congestion, and blackheads, which are the precursors to pimples. Read more about teenage oily skin and the best tips for treating juvenile acne, and watch this video about tips for teens with acne.
Adult acne is very different. It is not necessarily located in the oily areas of the face (t-zone). Most of the adult acne occurs on the cheeks, jawline, temples, neck, shoulders and back. Yes, it can sometimes present within the t-zone, but these lesions are very different to the clogged pores which end up infected. In adult acne, the lesions are located deeper in the skin, presenting as large, swollen, painful, red, angry looking lumps under the skin. Often referred to cysts, these can appear overnight and last for weeks or even months.
Unfortunately, there is not one single cause that can be attributed to causing adult acne. We know that it is an internal problem, but the causes vary. For example, some women notice they have a breakout due to stress, others notice it is related to their diet. We are suspicious of the toxins and chemicals in our food and water. Is it possible the hormones and antibiotics fed to cows, pigs, sheep and chickens to produce cost effective meat products are affecting our bodies and our skin? Is it possible that the highly processed foods we eat made from genetically modified wheat, corn and high in sugar are causing acne? Is it possible that even when we do not feel we are stressed, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones due to our high paced lifestyle, lack of adequate sleep, long hours at work and lack of exercise? Is it possible that these stress hormones cause breakouts?
We need to start asking these type of questions of ourselves and be more observant of our bodies and how we are responding to our diet and lifestyle. We as aestheticians can see the clues about your diet and lifestyle by simply looking at your skin. Acne that appears in different areas of the face also gives us some clues to the possible causes. For example, if you tend to have adult acne on the chin, this is usually hormonal, either related to that time of the month or stress hormones. Acne on the jawline and neck has often been linked to high stress (hormones) and acne on the cheeks, shoulders, and back are related to the gut and food intolerances (eg wheat, dairy, sugar, animal protein and acidic foods).
Helping someone manage their skin while they are suffering from adult acne includes specialized skin care that is formulated to reduce inflammation and promote healing and recovery. Skincare alone, however, will only help put out the existing fire. The cause will need to be addressed and so we recommend people seek the advice of an endocrinologist, a naturopath or a clinical immunologist to determine the cause of the problem.
Skin care ingredients to look for that have proven to help adult acne include retinol (vitamin A), salicylic acid, centella asiatica, glycerrhetinic acid, allantoin, tea tree essential oil and green tea. Be gentle with your skin, treat it as sensitive. Avoid harsh or stimulating skin care and treatments such as harsh scrubs, skincare formulated for oily skin, microdermabrasion, micro needling, and strong AHAs. Adult acne responds best to soothing skincare, anti-inflammatory treatments, LED light therapy, Salicylic acid peels, and manual lymphatic drainage.
Adult acne can be a frustrating and confusing condition to deal with because it is so different from person to person. The way it looks behaves and the causes are different. We need to apply a process of elimination to determine the cause then find the right treatments and products to treat individual skin. The great news is that science has come a long way in the past 10-20 years and there are very effective treatment options that can help and help fast. Ask your professional beauty therapist who has extensive experience treating adult acne to have a close look at your skin and have a discussion about the possible causes and treatment options.
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