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Even though acne is more common in
teenagers, it seems that more and more adults
are suffering with what is termed adult acne.
According to statistics, adult acne affects 25%
of adult men and 50% of adult women at some
time in their lives. Some sufferers may have
had acne as a teenager and see it recur in
their twenties, thirties, forties. Other
sufferers may have never suffered from acne
when they were younger.
Acne at any age can be difficult to deal
with and can cause embarrassment, anxiety and
even depression. Why should adults suddenly
develop acne or see it come back? We know that
in puberty the increase in the production of
sex hormones causes an overproduction of oil in
the sebaceous glands. This overproduction of
oil can cause acne. However, the causes of
adult acne are not well understood, but are
thought to include:
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- Hormonal changes. For women, especially, hormones can
fluctuate at any time. Most women are familiar with a
breakout of spots occurring premenstrually. It can also
happen during pregnancy and menopause. Acne is a common
symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome which is itself caused
by an imbalance of hormones.
- Coming off birth control pills. Interestingly, birth
control pills contain estrogen and progestins which control
acne in women. However, when they stop taking the pills,
acne may develop. In fact, birth control pills are often
prescribed to treat acne in some women.
- Stress. Research has found that stress may trigger acne
in women. It has also found a relationship between the
increased stress levels present in women with fast-paced
careers and higher levels of acne. In times of stress, the
body produces more androgens which stimulate the sebaceous
glands and hair follicles. The resulting overproduction of
oil can cause a flare-up of acne.
- Genetic disposition. People with a family history of
acne seem to be genetically predisposed to getting
- Cosmetics. Another reason why more women seem to suffer
with adult acne than men could be to do with cosmetics.
Cosmetics contain chemicals that can cause acne. This type
of acne is referred to as acne cosmetica and is a mild form
of acne which causes small, pink bumps on the cheek, chin
When you understand the possible cause of adult acne, then
it’s important to seek treatment. Acne, especially in women,
can be a warning sign of an underlying medical condition such
as polycystic ovaries. However, excluding an underlying medical
condition, most adult acne can be effectively controlled with
Adult acne treatments usually consists of either topical
preparations, or oral medications. Topical preparations can be
divided into two main categories: over-the-counter or
prescription-only according to how serious the acne. Examples
of oral medications are birth control pills, antibiotics and
isotretinoin (for more severe cases).
For women who suffer with acne cosmetica, you’re advised to
wear as little cosmetics as possible. It you find it difficult
to avoid using cosmetics, then wear oil-free mineral-based
cosmetics and avoid lanolin. Flesh-tinted acne lotion and loose
mineral-based powder can both be used to hide blemishes.
Finally, eat a healthy diet. Some people may say that diet
doesn’t play any part in causing acne, but a recent study found
a link between diet and acne. The study suggests that eating
foods of low glycemic index such as whole grain breads and
pasta, legumes, fruits and vegetables helps keep acne at bay.
High glycemic foods found in most junk foods and sugary drinks
can interfere with insulin levels and result in rising
Suffering with adult acne is no fun: who wants to feel like
a spotty teenager? It’s important to look at why these acne
flare-ups are occurring, whether it be through stress or
hormonal changes and to seek the most appropriate