What Causes Adult Acne & How to Get rid of It

Adult acne can be particularly frustrating. One reason is that treatments that worked effectively for you as an adolescent may no longer seem effective.

Another reason adults find acne onset problematic is the often difficult time they getting rid of blemishes and clearing up their complexion. The skin care approach and acne medications suitable for teenagers may not work.

Adult Acne Causes

Acne can persist well into a person’s 50’s. Some acne breakouts have different root causes than the acne you knew as a teenager. To find the best treatment you need to first identify the cause for acne in adults.

  • Hormonal Imbalances

    Hormonal imbalances in women not only reek havoc on your mind and body, it can take a toll on the skin, too. Hormones impact the moisture balance in the skin by stimulating the oil producing sebaceous glands. Increased levels of the male hormone testosterone increases sebum production resulting in oily, blemish-prone skin. Likewise an increase in estrogen reduces oil secretions resulting in dryer skin.Women find they may suffer from acne breakouts during pregnancy. The reason is the tidal wave of hormonal changes taking place inside the body. Acne blemishes are generally worse during the first trimester of pregnancy but it’s not uncommon for it to continue until breast feeding ends.

    Since a woman’s estrogen level drops a few days before her menstrual cycle while her estrogen levels increase, the sebaceous glands kick in producing more oil. The additional sebum often produces pimples and zits.

  • Stress

    Until recently health researchers were divided over the relationship between acne and stress. Studies at Stanford University and The National Academy of Sciences demonstrate that stress makes acne worse. Stress causes acne in two ways. First, the adrenal glands increase the output of hormones. One is testosterone, the other is cortisol. Both hormones stimulates that pesky sebaceous gland to produce more sebum. The extra sebum makes the skin more oily and leads to acne formation. The end result: increased acne and more inflamed pus-filled papules.

    Stress is also well documented to suppress the immune system. Because stress reduces the ability of the human body to heal wounds, if you are under stress the acne is more difficult to clear up.

  • Foods

    When it comes to adult acne treatment, it’s what you don’t eat that matters. Even though dermatologist may insist diet plays no role on acne, countless reports in various acne forums prove otherwise.

    Acne is not so much caused by a particular diet or food so much as a particular food may aggravate acne. Think about it as a food allergy. Look out for reactions to fats, sugar, dairy products and iodine containing foods like table salt, shellfish, spinach and bread products.

  • Medications

    Acne that show up for the first time in adulthood should be checked for an underlying cause. Research indicates certain medications can cause acne. The biggest culprits are lithium, anabolic steroids, compounds containing iodine and some anti-epileptic prescriptions.

    Lithium makes acne worse because it significantly increases the level of sebum production. However, the type of acne lithium produces differs from regular outbreaks since the blemishes formed generally do are not comedones (blackheads or blackheads).

    Anabolic steroids cause acne through the increased production of oil by the sebaceous gland. Increased oil activity combine with bacteria and dead skin cells to clog the pores more quickly before body can eliminate them.

    Iodine containing medications react in some adults by creating acne. Examples of drugs containing iodine are amiodarone ( used to prevent abnormal heart rhythms), cadexomer gel (an antibiotic and absorbent agent used to cleans and protect wounds), contrast agents injected for x-rays and many over the counter cough remedies.

  • Chemicals

    A little known skin condition known as Cloracne shows up as a rash after over exposure to certain chemicals and herbicides. Lesions usually are found on the cheeks, behind the ears, in armpits and around the groin.

    Chloracne normally occurs when aromatic hydrocarbons used in the creation of herbicides contacts the skin, is ingested or inhaled.

  •  Physical pressure and friction

    Chronic pressure to the skin can cause a condition known as acne mechanica. Heat, covered skin, constant pressure or repetitive friction against the skin surface irritates the skin surface that mar the complexion

  • Common causes include:

    • helmets and straps worn while playing football, hockey and motor cycle racing
    • tight uniforms made from synthetic fabrics
    • headbands
    • back pack straps and backpacks
    • violins and violas tucked for long periods against the neck
    • snug bra straps
    • snug jeans and leggings
    • tight underwear

    When it comes to getting acne under control, the key to finding the most effective acne treatment is to first determine the source. If all those bumps, pimples, blackheads and zits are not clearing up, a different treatment may be your answer.

How To Treat Adult Acne

Whether you had acne as an adolescent or not or those pimples you are looking at are appearing for the first time, dealing with acne can be frustrating.

For starters, what causes zits in an adult is often different from the cause as a teenager. This means that what cleared up breakouts of pimple and blackheads when you were a teenager won’t necessarily work for you as an adult. The good news is with a little patience and proper care your skin can return to normal.

Pimples and blackheads (known as comedones) if left untreated can permanently damage the skin. The resulting scars can last a lifetime sometimes requiring expensive and often uncomfortable surgery to correct.

Most adults head to the skin care aisle of their local drugstore as soon as the first blemish appears. For mild cases, over the counter remedies can work. Look for products that contain benzoyle peroxide (to kill the bacteria causing the inflammation) and salicylic acid (removes dead skin cells and keeps the skin surface healthy and clean)

Avoid acne products designed for teenagers unless you have super oily skin. Since adult sebaceous glands produce less sebum, men and women have drier skin than adolescents. Products marketed to solve teen age acne problems could be to drying for your skin.

With as many as 25% of men and 50% of women dealing with acne, more skin care products specifically designed for adults are coming to market. Look for products made Murad, L’oreal and Aveeno on the shelf. Over the counter products may take as long as 6 weeks to clear up your pores. If you don’t see results by then, it’s time to call in a dermatologist.

For mild to moderate acne, your dermatologist might recommend using a prescription topical cream or gel, topical antibiotics or a combination of the two.

  • Azelaic Acid

    Azelaic acid attacks Propionibacterium acnes, the “pimple germ” thatcauses acne breakouts, reduces inflammation and keeps skin pores clear. Brand names include Azelex and Finacea.

  • Topical Retinoids

    Retinoids like Retin-A are synthesized from Vitamin A. Topical retinoids are quickly exfoliate the skin. By keeping pores open, bacteria isn’t trapped, preventing comedone development Retinoids are helpful for if you have moderate to severe acne. Adults like using retinoids also make the skin younger looking by reducing wrinkles and “age lines”.

  • Topical Antibiotics

    Topical antibiotics work to inhibit the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria linked with acne vulgaris. The antibiotics can be used as a as a stand- alone acne treatment or in combined with other medications to treat moderate to severe acne and reduce the severity of breakouts.

    Common topical antibiotics used to treat acne include clindamycin, erythromycin, sodium sulfacetamide and tetracycline and tetracycline.

  • Topical Combination Therapy

    Topical combination therapy blends topical medications to kill control acne causing bacteria, remove dead skin cells, clear out pores and reduce the number bumps, pimples and blackheads. The therapy offers the additional advantage of reducing the amount of antibiotics necessary to kill p. acnes as compared to using topical antibiotics by themselves.

When Topical Treatments Don’t Work

If acne doesn’t improve using prescription topical creams, the next step may require oral medications. The most well-known is Accutane (isotretinoin), an oral antibiotic. Isotretinoin is designed for severe acne like cystic acne and not for the occasional breakout. Your doctor may prescribe a different oral antibiotic. Once the acne is under control, the oral treatments stop and topical treatment alone keeps acne from coming back. If acne doesn’t improve using prescription topical creams, the next step may require oral medications. The most well-known is Accutane (isotretinoin), an oral antibiotic. Isotretinoin is designed for severe acne like cystic acne and not for the occasional breakout. Your doctor may prescribe a different oral antibiotic. Once the acne is under control, the oral treatments stop and topical treatment alone keeps acne from coming back.

Oral contraceptives are occasionally prescribed for women to help balance hormonal fluctuations that lead to acne development. Birth control pills won’t clear up serious acne cases, but can be effective for those women who get a few pimples at the beginning of the menstrual cycle.

Getting acne under control not only reduces the risk of permanent scarring, it also improves the quality of life. The longer acne is left untreated the more likely scarring will take place. Research underscores that adults respond more negatively to the effects of acne on their quality of life than do teenagers.

Acne treatments for adults can be effective. But you need to be patient and understand clearing up those blemishes may take some time.

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