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Adult Acne - Why it's Back and Options for Clearer Skin

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Adult Acne, Acne Treatment, Acne Scars

Adult Acne - Why it's Back and Options for Clearer Skin

December 05, 2008

By: Stephanie Riesenman for Scars1

For many adults, acne is just an unpleasant memory from adolescence that was eventually outgrown. But bad skin is not just a teenage dilemma. Today more than half of adult women and one quarter of adult men experience acne breakouts.

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What Can You Do with Adult Acne?

  • See a dermatologist, there are treatments available.
  • Drink enough water; it reduces facial oil production and redness.
  • Try not to touch your face. It may just be a nervous habit, but constantly touching and rubbing your face can cause breakouts.
  • Relax and get some sleep; adult acne can flare up when we are stressed and fatigued.>
  • Avoid scrubbing too hard or using abrasive cleansing agents when you wash your face.
  • If you never had acne as a teenager, you may want to check with your doctor to see if there’s an underlying hormonal cause.
  • Nearly 17 million people in the United States have acne. In women, the occurrence peaks between the ages of 14 and 17, and between the ages of 16 and 19 in males. Teenagers make up the largest percentage of the population afflicted with acne. But the number of adults with the condition, or those seeking treatment for acne, appears to be on the rise. A 1999 study showed that the average age of patients being treated for acne increased from 20.5 years to 26.5 years over a decade.

    In teens the appearance of acne is usually associated with puberty. Common acne, called acne vulgaris, is what typically affects teens. The male hormone, androgen, is the instigator of pimple production. Androgen stimulates the sebaceous glands, which surround facial hair follicles, to produce an oily substance called sebum. When a gland produces too much sebum, or a follicle becomes plugged with skin debris, fat and keratin, the result is a pimple, or what dermatologists call a comedone. If the comedone is open, it’s known as a blackhead, if the comedone is closed, then it’s a whitehead. These comedones develop further into the pustules, papules and cysts that are acne.

    According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne that afflicts adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s is usually a recurrence of acne that cleared up after adolescence. If acne makes its first appearance in adulthood a dermatologist may have to investigate the underlying cause. Often it’s associated with hormonal changes in women – such as during pregnancy or menstruation, but it may also be due to a hormone imbalance, which can also happen to men. Some medications are known to cause acne, such as anabolic steroids, lithium, some anti-epileptic drugs, and medications containing iodine. Chronic physical pressure on the skin – such as rubbing or chaffing – may also cause patterns of breakouts in the area where pressure is applied. This is known as acne mechanica. And exposure to chlorinated industrial chemicals may also trigger adult acne.

    Often adult acne will go away with the help of over-the-counter medications such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or salicylic acid. When these OTC agents don’t work, a dermatologist should be able to prescribe a stronger medication. Or, if adult acne is causing scarring – which happens more frequently as skin ages and loses collagen – a dermatologist should be consulted.

    Your doctor can prescribe a drug called Isotretinoin, more commonly known as Accutane or Claravis. This powerful drug is used to fight the acne that causes scarring, but it requires close monitoring due to the risk of severe side-effects. A dermatologist might prescribe topical agents such as Retin-A or Differin, which are applied directly to the skin and speed cell-turnover. Systemic medications, which might include antibiotics such as tetracycline or erythromycin, are prescribed to fight bacterial infection. And in some cases, women may be advised to take an oral contraceptive to help regulate hormones and control monthly acne breakouts.

    If you’re finding your skin is worse in the winter and around the holidays, you are not alone. Doctors say stress and fatigue increase androgen production which can worsen acne. The cold weather also shrinks pores, which can cause more clogging of the follicles. Dermatologists advise patients to stay hydrated – because consuming more water helps to reduce facial redness and sebaceous gland oils. They also say you should avoid using abrasive cleansing agents or vigorous scrubbing, as it increases sebum production. And while popping that zit may seem like the quick fix, doctors warn it will only lead to more inflammation and can cause permanent acne scars.

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