Adult Acne: What’s Causing It and How to Treat It

Adult Acne: What’s Causing It and How to Treat It Apr 2, 2020 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

Although acne is usually prevalent among teenagers, it is not surprising to see breakouts persist even into adulthood. Acne can affect people of all ages, and it’s possible that the treatment you used back then could be useless now. It’s no wonder that acne can be especially frustrating for some adults.

What Causes Adult Acne?

In most instances, the factors that directly contributed to acne flare-ups when you were 16 could be the same culprit 10 years later. These known triggers include excessive oil production in your skin, clogged pores, production of acne-causing bacteria, and inflammation. However, there are also secondary factors that affect the triggers mentioned above, such as:

  • Stress. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between stress and acne. A stress-related signaling molecule called, “Corticotropin-releasing hormone,” binds to the receptors in your skin's sebaceous glands. The binding results in the increase of oil production in your skin, leading to acne. It appears that the greater the stress you are in, the more obvious the breakout will be.
  • Hormonal Imbalance. Hormonal fluctuations can occur due to several reasons, such as when a woman is pregnant, has her period, is about to have, or is going through, menopause, and starts or discontinues using birth control pills.
  • Hair and Skincare Products. Adult acne caused by certain hair or skincare products is not unheard of. If your hair or skincare products contain oil, that oil will likely find its way to your skin. Remember that oil can clog your pores and result in acne. Ensure that every container is marked with one of the following labels: oil-free, non-acnegenic, or non-comedogenic. Products with these labels are least likely to cause those red bumps.

Other causes of adult acne include a diet rich in dairy products, family history and a diet high in glycemic index and glycemic load. Sometimes, acne is a sign of an undiagnosed medical condition. An acne episode could also be a side effect of certain medications, like anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, and lithium.

How to Treat Adult Acne?

The arsenal available to treat adult acne now is rather robust depending on the type and severity. One popular mainstay in any acne-fighting regimen is topical tretinoin. It prevents clogged pores and is even known to brighten skin tone and reduce fine lines. Isotretinoin, which is taken orally, is recognized for treating severe adult acne cases. However, women who can become pregnant should take special precautions, as this medication can significantly harm the fetus.

Spironolactone, on the other hand, can be prescribed to women who have fluctuating hormone levels due to their menstrual cycles. This drug was originally formulated to treat certain cardiovascular issues, but at a lower dose, it can help alleviate hormonal acne. Moreover, oral birth control pills can aid in regulating hormones that trigger adult acne. In-office treatments, like photodynamic therapy and the use of chemical peels, can also be among your options.

The use of nonirritating hair and skincare products will also go a long way for anyone with adult acne. Choose only those that are gentle and safe for your skin, and stay away from harsh products that can only make your condition more serious. Lastly, no matter how tempting it can be, never squeeze your pimples or pick at your acne lesions, as it can result in further inflammation, discoloration, and — worse — scarring.

Before using any of these products, consult a board-certified dermatologist. Dr. Geoff Basler and Brent Behrens, PA-C at Complete Family Dermatology offer advanced acne treatment at our Lincoln, Nebraska office. Complete Family Dermatology will work diligently to create a treatment plan unique to you.

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