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I’m an Adult, Why Do I Still Have Acne?

Most think acne is just a problem teenagers have, but if you’re an adult who experiences persistent acne, you’re not alone. While it’s true that it’s often most prevalent during puberty, it does affect adults as well. You have many treatment options for adult acne, but your best bet is to make an appointment with your dermatologist to make your skin clear and glowing.

Adult acne is caused by clogged pores, just as it is in teenagers. However, hormonal fluctuations differ between adults and teenagers. Acne may be hormonal or cystic, or a combination of both.

Excessive or fluctuating hormones, either male or female, can cause adult acne. Hormonal fluctuations are most common for females, especially premenopausal women who menstruate, experience pregnancy, or breastfeed. Females with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have a particularly high risk because of their excess male hormones. In postmenopausal women, the hormonal fluctuations are very different from premenopausal women, but the significant bodily changes can still cause acne.

Other common causes of adult acne include:

  • Contact irritation: Using harsh cleansers or washing your face too much can irritate the skin and cause an increase in oil production to make up for the excessive dryness.
  • Emotional stress: The biological changes caused by emotional stress can lead to many of the triggers of adult acne. This is because cortisol, “the stress hormone,” causes a skin imbalance.
  • Physical stress: Lack of sleep, illness, dehydration, and pollution exposure can trigger hormonal fluctuations and weaken your immunity, causing further inflammation.
  • Medication: Certain pills can cause acne, such as lithium, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, and other medicines.
  • Pore-clogging makeup: If you use makeup, you may want to opt for powder cosmetics instead of makeup creams (such as foundation). Your dermatologist can recommend oil-free makeup.
  • Smoking: Research shows that 42% of smokers suffer from acne compared to 10% of nonsmokers. Tobacco products are well-known for causing cancer, but smoking also can damage your skin because it increases the rate of skin cell turnover. Smoking also causes a lack of oxygen to the skin, causing an excess of sebum.
  • Poor diet: The link between an unhealthy diet and acne isn’t firmly established, but a healthy diet can help promote healthier skin, especially if you are well-hydrated by eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water.

I Wash My Skin All the Time, Why Do I Still Have Blackheads?

It may surprise you to learn that washing your skin won’t get rid of acne, including blackheads. That’s because they form below the surface of the skin from sebum (oil) buildup. Scrubbing your skin excessively can actually worsen acne.

Using pore-clogging lotions, creams, or even makeup can also cause acne. Look for noncomedogenic/oil-free makeup, sunscreens, lotions, and other skincare products.

However, most people’s acne is not a result of poor hygiene. Bacteria accumulate under the skin are usually not reachable with surface cleansing.

How Is Adult Acne Treated?

  • Prescription pills: Contraceptive (birth control) may help with adult women who experience acne, as these pills help block acne-causing androgen hormones, which put oil glands into overdrive. Some birth control methods, though, such as hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) can make acne worse.

Spironolactone may be a good choice for your acne to control hormonal fluctuations, as well.

Antibiotics can help with skin bacteria, especially if you have acne on wide areas of the skin.

Accutane is a powerful drug that is often the last resort for adult acne sufferers who don’t respond to other conservative therapies. It is incredibly effective and completely clears acne in about 85% of those who take it as prescribed. There are serious risks, though, and those who take Accutane must participate in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved risk management treatment program.

  • Prescription topical treatments: If you have an acne problem, your doctor will likely prescribe topical medications. The most common treatments include retinoids, antibiotic creams, salicylic acid, and dapsone. These may cause some redness and dryness, but you can counteract this will your dermatologist’s recommendation for skin moisturization.
  • Daily skincare: Cleansing your skin is important, but don’t overdo it, or you risk making your acne worse with excessive scrubbing. A good cleanser will wash away makeup, dirt, and grime and clear up excess skin cells that can clog pores. You should wash your face once or twice a day and use cool or warm water with a gentle cleanser. Pat your skin dry rather than rubbing it.

Will I Always Have Acne?

Studies show that acne becomes less common after age 44, and many acne may end for women when they experience menopause. Until then, there are many effective acne treatments, especially in a combination approach prescribed by your dermatologist. It takes time for these treatments to kick in, though, so be patient – it may take about 12 weeks for these medications to work. Don’t give up after a few weeks and think your acne treatment isn’t working, and make sure to keep regular appointments with your dermatologist to keep your skin clear.

While it’s not ideal to have adult acne, you can get clearer skin. Simply book an appointment with your dermatologist!

Call (818) 284-4003 or contact us online to set up an appointment at our dermatology office.