What You Need To Know About Adult Acne

locker foundphotoslj

Argh! You cleaned out your high school locker years ago and now you have acne pimples on your jaw this morning. You’re not alone — 1 in every 5 women over 25 has acne.

Adult acne, in contrast to the teenage type, occurs more often in women. For some women, this is the first time they had acne; we call this late-onset acne. For other women, their acne never stopped from childhood into adulthood; we call this persistent acne. Many of my women patients have other names for adult acne, but they cannot be printed here.

It Must Be Hormones

We like to blame everything on hormones. In the case of acne, hormones contribute, but they are not the only factor. Stopping birth control pills causes a change in hormones and is  a cause for acne in adult women. Similarly, using progestin-only birth control pills affects hormones in such a way as to cause breakouts. Pregnancy is a time of dramatic hormone fluctuations and for some women, dramatic acne. Similarly, menopause can trigger outbreaks. Despite these known hormonal triggers, most women who have acne do not have hormonal imbalances (they are normal fluctuations in hormones). Foods or supplements that claim to balance women’s hormones don’t. So save your time and money, they won’t help your acne.

You Can’t Scrub Acne Away

Exfoliating to open pores can help, but only when done in moderation. Harsh scrubs or repeated microdermabrasion will irritate the skin and make acne worse. Instead, use mild chemical exfoliators such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid which are found in many women’s cosmetics and in acne treatments. Products that contain benzoyl peroxide also help to exfoliate and will treat adult acne.

Don’t Give Up Your Scharffen Berger Chocolate

Although myths of chocolate and pizza causing acne have been disproved, it is true that consuming cow’s milk (which contains hormones) as well as eating a diet high in carbohydrates (which causes inflammation) can contribute to acne. Eating chocolate once and a while, especially good chocolate, will not cause or worsen your acne.

Cosmetics Cause Acne

Many skincare products contain ingredients that clog your pores, triggering acne. Pantene shampoo as well as many hair conditioners have been known to cause this problem. Also, sunscreens are notorious for causing acne. If you notice that your acne is worse around your hairline or that it has flared since you started sunscreens, then try changing your products; it might be all you need to clear up your face.

Photo: Foundphotoslj (flickr)

Post written by Dr. Benabio Copyright The Derm Blog 2009

25 thoughts on “What You Need To Know About Adult Acne”

  1. Of all the skin afflictions, Acne is the most common and is typically associated with adolescence. Surprisingly, Adult Acne is prevalent in 25% of men and 50% of women at various stages of adult life. Adult seek acne treatment but rarely investigate the underlying cause for their acne. In the past decade Adult Acne has been on the rise; studies indicate that between 40 and 55% of the adult population in the 20-40 age group are diagnosed with a low grade, persistent acne and oily skin. So why is this skin disorder no longer just a teen skin problem?
    Teen vs Adult Acne
    Teen acne is primarily facial and is largely associated with the hormones related to puberty. Adult acne is usually found on the sides of the face, chin and jaw line, extending onto the neck. The primary aggravating factor leading to adult acne is chronic stress. Human body’s response to stress is to activate the adrenal gland which increases testosterone levels. This hormone triggers an increase in oil production and the result to our skin is the appearance of oily shine and clogged pores. So we’ve established we’re stressed, then we get break outs and more stress. Another unfortunate side-effect is the bacteria spreading on the skin when the breakouts are popped, leading to further inflammation, scarring and more eruptions.
    Post-Inflammatory Pigmentation
    In these times not only are we dealing with more stress, but our skin is aging. With the aging process comes longer healing time- so the break outs can last as long as 5-10 days. There’s also the risk of more scarring as inflammation also accompanies break outs. Our skin sends melanin to the site of inflammation and we’re left with discoloration once the break out has healed.
    Topical Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of papular and postular acne. It surpassed efficacy shown by antibiotics such as Clindamycin. Niacinamide has no side effects unlike antibiotics.
    Niacinamide is reputed to increase the ability of epidermis to retain moisture. Studies have shown that Niacinamide when applied topically over a period of six days, increased skin smoothness and moisture and reduced skin dryness and fine lines and wrinkles. In lab studies, Niacinamide when applied to mouse skin, led to a 70% reduction in incidence of UV-induced skin cancer. In one clinical investigation, subjects with hyperpigmentation, after a 4 week application of topical niacinamide, computer analysis indicated a marked decrease in hyperpigmentation along with increased skin color lightness.
    “Niapads” contains 4% Niacinamide and is a one step, easy to use product for controlling Acne. Each pack contains 30 pads. Simply wet the pad with water and apply it on the skin to be treated. Mild scrubbing open up clogged pores, peels away dirt and dead skin cells and delivers Niacinamide at the site of action. Any acne scars or hyperpigmentation diminishes in a few days. Regular application restores skin moisture and controls reoccurrence of acne.
    Visit Niapads for details.

  2. Thank you for the timely post. I have always had acne, and it started when I began menstruating. In fact, I still have some acne even if I take birth control pills, use salicylic acid in the morning, apply benzoyl peroxide and Differin alternately at night. My foundation, powder and blush are all non-comedogenic. Maybe it’s in the genes. By the way, I’m already 26. My pimples have lessened when I started taking birth control pills for my acne last year. Thanks again!

  3. Hi Dr.Benabio first i’d like to say great blog in regards to this post i definitly notice a link with milk and flare ups ive strugled with acne since i was 15 now im 20 and although its alot more under control i still struglle with breakouts – which leads me to ask two firstly as milk is the main source of most peoples calcium intake what would you recomend instead i guess organic milk won’t make a difference and please don’t say soya ! also im about to undertake a fitness regime and will be including protein probably whey isolate and maybe casein shakes to help my gains will taking these products cause the same problems as drinking milk for an acne sufferer like myself or will i be ok providing i choose good quality products ? please respond your advice will be much appreciated.

  4. Hi Dr. Benabio! I love your blog and have read it from start to finish. How do you get rid of hardened cystic acne? I have one pimple on my forehead that I left alone because I didn’t want scarring, and now it has hardened into a lump under the skin. Is there a way to get rid of it, or will it go away on its own? Thanks!

  5. Never mind, I have found my answer! I’ve been putting a small amount of Amlactin on my hardened pimple and it has helped tremendously.

  6. Hi Dr. Benabio- I have a question about Aczone. Does it work?! I’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to work for me. I came across it and read the Learn about Aczone, but wanted to get info from a Dr. Any advice?

  7. Hi

    I am a concerned mother. I have a 15 year old daughter who a extensive scaring from acne and picking. We are from New Orleans and after hurricane Katrina she starting picking at her pimples and scaring her arms, leg, face and back until she had big sores. Things to therapy and constant attention from our family she has almost completely stop picking, but know she has extensive scarring left on her face, hands, arms, chest, and back. What can we do about this. I am a single parent and we do not have insurance. However I would really like to help her get rid of the awful scars. It has killed her self esteem, she now isolates herself, she stays in the house all the time, she has gained a lot of wieght and is now obesed. What can I do to help my child.

    Sign hopeless adoring mom.

  8. Hi

    I am a concerned mother. I have a 15 year old daughter who has a extensive scaring from acne and picking. We are from New Orleans and after hurricane Katrina she starting picking at her pimples and scraching her arms, leg, face and back until she had big sores. Thinks to therapy and constant attention from our family she has almost completely stop picking, but know she has extensive scarring left on her face, hands, arms, chest, and back. What can we do about this. I am a single parent and we do not have insurance. However I would really like to help her get rid of the awful scars. It has killed her self esteem, she now isolates herself, she stays in the house all the time, she has gained a lot of wieght and is now obesed. What can I do to help my child.

    Sign hopeless adoring mom.

  9. Agreed with using mild chemical exfoliate, but also make sure to try a Beta Hydroxy Acid for relief from acne.

  10. I had acne as a kid but my acne as an adult always seemed to be worse. I didn’t know what to do. I had tried everything under the sun. My mom gave me a gift certificate to get a Skin Print. They take images of your skin and measure PH, Moisture and a few other things. Then they developed a skin care routine for me and my skin. My face looks great now.

  11. Finally! A doctor who agrees that quitting birth control can cause acne. I swear every doctor I’ve talked to about it has looked at me like I was crazy.

  12. It just isn’t fair!

    You enjoy a few decades of relatively clear skin then you get to the age where you don’t need birth control pills any longer. You’re so right. Acne.

    Then, you work out a skin care sytem that seems to work and WHAM. Pre-menopause strikes. Then menopause. Then post menopause. Next thing you know, it’s been 15 years of fighting acne outbreaks! All when you thought you were old enough that ance would never plague you again!

    I have found that adjusting my skin care regimen (especially during the changes of the seasons) helps to prevent outbreaks. It’s a matter of adapting to not only environmental changes but to internal changes as well. Stress, good diet, exercise all are helpful prevenatative measures along with drinking plenty of good old fashion water!

  13. Hey – so, all this is fabulous, but what if you have non-inflamed acne (soft closed comedones) All Over Your Face? I’ve heard that glycolic acid, and others like it, don’t really work for those? And combine that with sensitive skin, so that “rubbing” really just makes things worse. Advice???

  14. Try Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash (2% Salicylic Acid) I stopped Birth Control too and previously haven’t had a pimple for 20 years. It didn’t start right away but gradually got worse around my chin and sides of face. I tried Benzoyl Peroxide even dot sized amounts would cause me itching and redness/dryness. This Neutrogena product which you can get at the drugstore is not too drying and it really made my skin feel great within 1 week. I have been putting (proactiv’s toner) on after (this didn’t help on its own) and Dove’s non-pore blocking daycream with 2 drops of tea tree oil. I know it’s helping because I haven’t gone this long without a pimple in 5-6 months. Best of luck.

  15. I have to say that finally… finally I hear a dermatologist saying that (cow’s) milk causes acne! I used to have very, very bad acne and when I removed milk products from my diet, about 50% of the acne went away.. So everybody out there with severe acne: try giving up all milkproducts for two weeks and see where it takes you.

  16. Thanks for the tips, my adult acne is worse than when I was a teenager. I’m glad to know what can cure my acne and the foods I should avoid, but I do love my carbs! Any other natural acne cures you can recommend?

  17. Kelly Archer says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog today because I’m a long-time reader of Food Blogga. I was reading this post and learned something new! Is it really true that Pantene has been linked to acne? It all makes so much sense, now!!

    Please tell me, is there a shampoo and/or conditioner that you recommend?

  18. Adult Acne is a very frustrating disorder for many and there are a variety of treatment methods. While using over the counter methods can be very appealing it’s always a good idea to consult your dermatologist before self-medacting. It can cause serious discomfort and even scarring. My dermatologist recommended that I visit this site to learn more about dealing with my acne now that I am adult and my options for treating it.

  19. Lots of good information for Acne treatment however us ladies really need to think twice before giving up dairy products which are a good source of calcium especially those who are post menopausal. I’ll take acne over a fractured hip or spine! But overall the best advice would be to see your dermatologist.

  20. Good information on adult acne. I tried certain home remedies but it didn’t work well for me. I stumbled upon this new online skin advisor myskin.com via Face book. There i got recommendation on acne treatment suitable to my skin type and it worked wonderfully on my skin.

  21. Acne is a skin condition that shows up as different types of bumps. They include whiteheads, blackheads, red pimples, and bumps that are filled with pustules. Teenagers are inclined to be tempted to squeeze out their pimples, thinking it to be a fast solution to their problem. As a parent point of view one should let their teen know that pimples actually have a short life – about three days to a week – and that the best she can do is to apply topical medication to it and wait for it to heal.

    Acne

  22. Hi, I woke up one morning and my face was full of spots (Adult Acne) . I started putting on OTC acne meds. on them but not getting better. Friends think it’s a wheat allergy. But going to a doctor today and see what else I can do. It’s very shocking to wake up to this face. Never ever had acne in my life time and now at 59 years old!!!

  23. My friend. Tomato juice has an amazing effect on the acne which can be noticed after one application. Take a ripe tomato pulp and rub it gently over the acne eruptions. Allow the tomato juice to get absorbed well into the skin for one hour and then wash your face with cold water. You can see significant improvement in the acne condition. this is a very good way. Many of my friends say good effect.

Comments are closed.