Adult Acne is frustrating!

Waiting for acne to clear can be extremely frustrating. Without treatment, acne can cause low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and permanent scarring.

7 Things That Cause Adult Acne

Women get adult acne more often than men do. If you’re getting acne as an adult, it is likely due to one or more of the following reasons:

1. Fluctuating hormone levels can cause adult acne. Women’s hormones change frequently around their periods, during pregnancy, in peri-menopause and menopause. Some women get their first breakout when going through menopause. Many women also get acne after starting or stopping their birth control pills.

2. Stress can cause adult acne. When we are under stress, our bodies produce more androgen hormones. The androgens stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, which can lead to acne.

3. Your family history may make you more prone to adult acne. People who have relatives with acne are more likely to get adult acne.

4. Hair and skin care products can cause adult acne. If you have adult acne, read the labels on your skin and hair care products. Make sure that you see at least one of the following terms on every container: Non-Acnegenic, Non-Comedogenic, Oil Free, or Won’t Clog Pores. Products with these labels are least likely to cause acne.

5. Adult acne can be a side effect of medications. If you suspect that a medication is triggering your acne or making it worse, continue taking the medicine — but ask the doctor who prescribed it if acne is a possible side effect. Ask about taking a different medicine. If changing medications is not an option, you may want to see a dermatologist who can help you control the acne.

6.  Undiagnosed medical conditions may cause adult acne. Once the medical condition is diagnosed and treated, the acne often clears. An example is Hidradenditis suppurativa. It is a long-term skin disease, which often goes undiagnosed because it looks like acne. If you have acne in your armpit, on your groin, or under your breasts, you might have this disease.

7.  Dairy may cause adult acne. There’s no definite link between dairy and acne, but there are theories about it. Studies have shown associations between dairy and acne, but they don’t show cause and effect, and they don’t prove that dairy causes acne. Even though people who’ve quit dairy may tell you it improved their acne, it doesn’t mean that the same will be true for you.

F. William Danby, MD, explained in a medical journal in 2008, how acne and dairy may be related. Milk contains components related to the hormone testosterone. The testosterone may stimulate oil glands in skin and cause acne. Recent research has found a link between the whey protein in milk and acne.

So what can you do to improve your adult acne?

Many people with mild acne get good results with products available without a prescription. A product containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid often clears the skin. This does not mean that the acne will clear overnight. Most over the counter treatments take 4 – 8 weeks to show improvement. Once acne clears, you have to continue the treatment to prevent future breakouts.

Blue light therapy is a newer, very effective option in the fight against acne. Certain blue LED wavelengths (400nm to 470nm) target the P. acnes bacteria, the strain of bacteria that causes inflammatory acne. The light starts development of oxygen radicals that kill this bacteria without damaging healthy skin. It works best for mild to moderate acne and is great for people who cannot use the harsh products commonly used to fight acne. Lights that combine red and blue wavelengths or just blue lights can be used to treat acne; but acne treatment is most effective with combination blue (415 nm) and red (640 nm) LED devices. Red light (640 nm) reduces the inflammation associated with breakouts. Light therapy can be done in an office or at home with a hand held device.

At this time, I wouldn’t recommend blue light therapy for people with dark skin. Instead, you might consider using red light alone. It targets the redness and swelling of acne.

10. Use a light skin moisturizer and water-based, oil-free makeup.

11. Keep your hands off your face. Touching your skin throughout the day can cause flare-ups.

12. At night, apply a spot cream containing sulfur to the affected areas.

13. If your skin is not too sensitive, use topical retinoids at night. Topical retinoids are a form of vitamin A that clears pores and reduces the frequency and severity of acne outbreaks. Using a retinoid along with topical antibiotic or benzoyl peroxide may work better than either medicine alone. Retinoids should NOT be used as a spot treatment. They prevent acne from forming but do not correct active acne. Differin / adapalene cream is a form of vitamin A that was made specifically to treat acne. It used to be available only by prescription, but the FDA recently made it available over the counter in drug stores.

14. Talk to your doctor about limiting or eliminating dairy from your diet.

15. Stay out of the sun and tanning beds. Tanning damages skin. Some acne medications make skin very sensitive to UV light, which you get from the sun and indoor tanning. Using tanning beds increases your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 75%.

16. When the skin clears, treatment should continue. Treatment prevents new breakouts. Your dermatologist can tell you when you should stop your acne treatment.

17. Consider LED blue light therapy, either at a medical office or at home. 

See a dermatologist if:

  • your acne makes you feel shy or embarrassed
  • your acne is leaving scars and darkening your skin
  • you have lots of acne, cysts, or nodules
  • medicine you buy without a prescription does not work