Reaching a certain age doesn’t protect you from adult acne, a skin disorder occurring when hair follicles become inflamed due to clogged pores. Common acne can appear on the skin of your face, neck, chest, shoulders and back in the form of pimples or pustules, whiteheads, papules or blackheads. It can also manifest as nodules or large bumps just under the skin.
Acne can develop for several reasons, including:
- Having a genetic predisposition
- Having an untreated medical condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Using oil-based skin or hair products
- Experiencing hormonal changes
- Taking certain medicines containing hormones, corticosteroids or lithium
In adults, acne is more common in women than men.
How do you fix adult acne?
Gentle skin cleansing twice a day, once in the morning and at night, is the first line of defense against acne, maintaining a daily routine with nonabrasive products that don’t irritate the skin. Choose water-based products that won’t clog pores.
Other tips involving cosmetics are:
- Never sleep in make-up as doing so can contribute to clogged pores.
- Avoid sharing cosmetics, cosmetic brushes or applicators with other people. While acne isn’t contagious, you can transfer dirt, oil, dead skin cells from shared applicators to your products and then deposit them onto your face, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.
If daily habits don’t keep adult acne at bay, over-the-counter acne lotions or creams containing retinoid, benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics, and azelaic or salicylic acid, will probably help. Read the label and use the product according to the manufacturer’s directions. Some acne will respond quickly, while other breakouts need more time to heal. Allow six to eight weeks for the medication to take effect before switching to a different product.
If you can’t find relief for your adult acne with over-the-counter products, enlist a dermatologist’s help. Most cases can be cleared with a comprehensive acne treatment plan of prescription antibiotics, corticosteroids and hormones.
Why do I have acne in my 40s?
Acne in women approaching middle age is typically caused by fluctuations in hormone levels, which can be due to:
- Period onset
- Stopping or starting birth control pills
Even when hormonal changes cause acne, the treatments are the same.
How can I prevent adult acne?
When cleaning your skin, avoid detergent-based soaps, astringents and abrasive cleaning surfaces, such as terrycloth washcloths.
Some factors don’t cause acne but can worsen acne outbreaks. Pay attention to:
- Your dietary choices. Foods high in added hormones, such as meat and dairy, may overstimulate the oil glands and aggravate the condition. Try adopting a low glycemic diet, which has been shown to improve acne in clinical trials.
- Over scrubbing your skin. Using a harsh abrasive on your breakout may exacerbate your acne.
- Popping your pimples or picking at acne can make it worse.
Take the Quiz
What’s causing your adult acne? Take the St. Elizabeth Healthcare quiz to find out.