Adult acne afflicts almost 50% of women and 25% of men, bringing back the memories of awkward adolescence and embarrassing acne. Although adult acne is on the rise, there are many very effective acne treatment options.
Acne strikes almost everyone, regardless of age, race, or social status. Although acne is most common in teens and young people, adults do get acne, too. Adult acne afflicts around 25% of men and 50% of women, and it has numerous causes. As adult acne does not always respond to the same treatments that are effective against acne in younger people, it is wise to consult with a dermatologist in order to reduce or prevents acne scars altogether.
What Causes Adult Acne?
The main culprit for causing adult acne is too much sebum. Sebum is the oily substance that your skin’s sebaceous glands secrete; it keeps the skin supple and lubricated under normal conditions, but sebum can also cause pores to become clogged. Clogged pores in turn often become irritated and inflamed, causing acne lesions.
The over-production of sebum frequently attributed to a hormonal imbalance. Some adult acne is caused by a sensitivity to sex hormones (androgens and estrogens), which can happen to both men and women. However, women are especially susceptible to these hormone imbalances, particularly during menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and perimenopause.
Other causes of adult acne include:
- The use of oral or injected steroids (corticosteroids as medication or anabolic steroids as a drug of abuse).
- Cosmetics and heavy moisturizers. If moisturizers and makeup contain certain substances that are comedogenic (pore-blocking), or they could become contaminated with bacteria if they are used improperly.
- Stopping oral contraceptives (in women)
- Stress. Stress causes an increase in the body’s production of cortisol, which can be a factor in weight gain, increased sebum production, and hormonal hypersensitivity.
Symptoms of Adult Acne
Adult acne symptoms are basically the same as in acne vulgaris in younger people.
Comedones. When a skin pore gets blocked or clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells, and tiny hairs, the resultant acne lesion is called a comedone. Comedones are not infected or inflamed. There are two kinds of comedones: open (blackheads) and closed (whiteheads). Blackheads are basically level with the skin’s surface, and the matter inside the pore is exposed to the air, which causes it to darken in color. Whiteheads are raised and closed off, so the matter inside them remains light in color. Both kinds of comedones can be expressed, but it is best to see a dermatologist, since squeezing a comedone can cause irritation and infection, which can lead to adult acne scars.
Papules. When a hair follicle becomes inflamed, a raised, sensitive, bump ensues. Papules do not have an internal core, so squeezing them is not effective and can result in acne scars.
Pustules. These classic “pimples” or “zits” are characterized by a reddish circle of inflamed skin with a central pus-filled bump. Again, they can be squeezed to express the matter, but it is best to allow a dermatologist do so in a sterile setting.
Nodules and Cysts. These severe adult acne lesions are larger and more painful than the others, form deep in the skin’s inner layers, and both are more typical in severe adult acne. Nodules feel like hard balls under the skin surface, but they do not have a pus-filled core. They are quite painful and inflamed to the touch, and need to be dealt with by a dermatologist, since nodules frequently cause acne scars. Cysts do have a central, pus-filled core, which can be drained properly by a dermatologist.
Adult Acne Treatment
Adult skin is more sensitive than that in younger people, so care must be exercised in treating it. It is always best to consult a dermatologist in cases of moderate to severe adult acne, to avoid worsening and acne scars. Here are some treatment options for adult acne:
- Good skincare. Wash your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser. Use products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which helps dry up sebum and acne lesions.
- Oral or topical antibiotics. These can kill the bacterial infection which is causing the acne lesions.
- Retinoids. These medications, derived from vitamin A, can help lower the skin’s sebum production and promote healthy skin regeneration. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is taken orally, while Tretinoin (Retin-A) is a topical preparation.
- Cortisone Injections. Injecting the steroid cortisone directly into an acne lesion can help clear it up much more quickly and help end acne scars.
Adult acne is common, and incidence of this condition seems to be on the rise. However, adult acne is easy to treat. See a dermatologist, who will help you design an adult acne treatment regimen to help reduce and prevent the incidence of lesions and acne scars.