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Acne: Causes, Solutions and Treatments for Adults

Reviewed on 3/2/2020

I'm in My Late 20s...Why Do I Still Have Acne?

Many people face adult acne in their 20s.

Many people think acne only happens in teens, but that's not the case. Many experience adult acne in their 20s. An unfortunate few experience adult acne in their 30s, at 40, at 50, or even as seniors. Ongoing adult acne seems to be more common in women and seems to have a hormonal basis. Read on to learn about adult acne causes, medication, products, face wash, and solutions.

Why Do I Still Get Blackheads When I Wash a Lot?

Blackheads are one type of acne lesion.

Acne begins with the development of a plug of hardened sebum that stops up the openings of the follicular pores on the face. These plugs seem to become darker with age, hence the term blackheads. When there is a layer of skin covering the follicular opening, the sebaceous plug usually does not darken and is called a "whitehead" by some. Once the follicle becomes clogged, it will enlarge as more skin and sebum is produced behind it. Bacterial contamination of this sebaceous mixture is common since bacteria normally inhabit the follicle. If stretched enough, the wall of the follicle ruptures. This enables this material access to the deeper tissues, which produces inflammation in the form of a pimple.

Do Birth Control Pills Cure or Cause Acne?

The pill may help some women who suffer from adult acne.

Oral contraceptives may help some women keep adult acne at bay. However, the pill isn't for everyone. Some women should not take it because it may increase the risk of breast cancer, heart attack, high blood pressure, and blood clots. Women over the age of 35 years old may be advised to avoid the pill because of these increased risks. Ask your doctor if it's safe for you to take the pill to manage adult acne.

Could My Makeup Cause Acne?

Choose oil-free makeup that won’t clog pores to minimize adult acne.

There is no doubt that certain oily substances can induce the development of pimples. If one of them is a component of a cosmetic or makeup, this can be detrimental to the complexion. Choosing a cosmetic or makeup that is water-based is likely to avoid this possibility. Wash your makeup off at the end of the day so it does not settle into pores overnight.

Is a Stressful Job a Factor in Acne?

Stress increases androgens, which cranks up the production of oil from oil glands in the skin.

Stress is a common, nearly unavoidable part of life. There is some evidence that stress may cause acne flare-ups. Stress triggers the production of androgens, which increase the production of oil in the skin. In addition to stress contributing to adult acne flare-ups, having acne may lead to stress and depression. You may have the urge to pick at pimples to get rid of them, but this is not a good idea. Picking at your skin may lead to scars and may spread bacteria, leading to new pimples.

What's the Truth About Chocolate and Acne?

Despite widespread belief, eating chocolate doesn’t contribute to acne breakouts.

Old wives' tales claim that eating chocolate contributes to acne, but that doesn't seem to be the case. There is no convincing evidence that diet plays a major role in acne. Results of some studies suggest that eating a high-glycemic index diet and drinking milk may increase breakouts, while eating a low-glycemic index diet and drinking less milk may lead to fewer breakouts. The best thing to do if you think eating certain foods contributes to acne is to avoid them.

What Is Deep-Cyst Acne?

Deep cystic acne is managed by draining the lesions or injecting them with corticosteroids.

Cystic acne is common acne in its most severe form. This form of acne is likely to result in permanent scarring. It is quite rare in adults. Most patients with cystic acne require aggressive medical therapy to prevent blemishes. A dermatologist may inject the cysts with corticosteroid or drain them to provide the patient relief.

What Other Kinds of Acne Are There?

Unlike comedones, inflammatory acne lesions reside underneath the surface of the skin.

Three types of acne lesions that affect teenagers can happen in adults, too. A comedo is commonly known as a blackhead. Pimples or pustules are pus-filled lesions that are red at the base. Nodules lodge deeper than other types of acne. They are painful and may cause scarring. The use of certain drugs may contribute to acne. Some kinds of adult acne are due to the overproduction of androgens, male hormones that both men and women have that stimulate oil glands.

Could My Acne Be Related to Anemia?

Acne is not related to anemia, but low folate may play a role.

Some people suspect anemia contributes to acne, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Post adolescent acne is common in women between the ages of 25 and 50, women who are of reproductive age. Low intake of nutrients necessary to guard against anemia, including iron, vitamin B12, folate, is also common in this group. This is called nutritional anemia. One study found that post adolescent acne patients had much lower levels of folate compared to those who did not have acne. However, the study concluded, there was no link between post adolescent acne and nutritional anemia.

Will I Be Stuck With Acne Forever?

Some women develop acne for the first time in menopause.

Acne tends to resolve in most individuals as they age. When acne recurs in adulthood, it is important to rule out other causes for androgen excess. This group of conditions requires a series of blood tests for diagnosis. Acne that appears for the first time in adulthood is called "adult-onset acne." This type of acne is most common in menopausal women.

What's the Best Way to Treat Acne?

Many different over-the-counter products, face washes, and solutions are available to treat adult acne.

Many people successfully treat mild adult acne with over-the-counter products. Benzoyl peroxide gels and creams and salicylic acid preparations are just a few types of treatments that are available in most pharmacies. If you need something stronger, the dermatologist has many prescription treatments available. Topical and oral antibiotics and retinoids, steroid receptor-blocking agents, and oral contraceptives may be used in the management of adult acne.

What's the Best Way to Prevent Acne?

Adult acne cannot be prevented, but you can manage it.

Acne is not preventable, but you can manage it. Avoid comedogenic cosmetics and hair products that contain ingredients that can clog pores. Avoid taking drugs that can exacerbate acne. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get adequate sleep to keep pimples at bay.

Can Workouts Cause Acne?

Some people notice they break out or experience a worsening of acne after they work out.

Some people notice they break out or experience a worsening of acne after they work out. Heat and humidity may increase the likelihood of breakouts, but it doesn't mean you should stop exercising. Just take a few precautions to make your workouts safer for your skin. Take your makeup off before working out so it doesn't sink into pores. Put on clean workout clothes before you exercise. Apply oil-free sunscreen before heading outdoors. Use a clean towel to wipe off sweat as you work out. Clean and disinfect shared equipment before you use it. Shower immediately after exercising to wash off excess oil and bacteria that cause acne.

What Is the Link Between Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Acne?

PCOS may be associated with adult acne in women.

Polycystic ovary disease (PCOS) is a disorder that is characterized by insulin resistance, increased levels of androgens (so-called male hormones that men and women have), and an irregular menstrual cycle. PCOS may be associated with adult acne in women. High levels of androgens may inhibit ovulation, which leads to skipped periods, and trigger excess hair growth and acne breakouts. Other signs and symptoms of PCOS include infertility, obesity, oily skin, patches of darkened skin, and fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries. PCOS is treated with birth control pills to promote regular periods, metformin to guard against diabetes, statins to combat high cholesterol, and hormones to promote fertility. If acne and excess hair are a problem, a doctor can treat those, too.

Do Makeup Brushes Cause Acne?

Makeup brushes and other tools accumulate bacteria, oil, and skin cells as you use them.

Makeup brushes and other tools accumulate bacteria, oil, and skin cells as you use them. These contaminants may lead to breakouts, so clean your brushes and other makeup tools weekly. Do not share makeup brushes or tools with others to avoid spreading bacteria. Brushes and tools can also spread contagious diseases like pink eye or cold sores.

What Causes Back Acne?

The face is not the only place where acne can develop. Some people get it on their back.

The face is not the only place where acne can develop. Some people get it on their back. If you are prone to so-called "bacne," take the following precautions to minimize the risk of breakouts. Always wear clean clothes when you exercise and put workout wear immediately into the laundry pile when you're done. Wear natural fabrics like cotton or tops made of sweat-wicking fabric. Shower immediately after working out and put on a new change of clothes. Avoid using things that rub against your back like a backpack or purse that you carry on your shoulder. Carry your purse on your arm instead.

Can Other Objects Spread Acne?

If you continue to suffer from acne despite your efforts to eradicate it, check your environment.

If you continue to suffer from acne despite your efforts to eradicate it, check your environment. Pillowcases, hats, headbands, helmets, smartphones, and other objects you regularly come into contact with can harbor skin cells, bacteria, and dirt that may contribute to acne breakouts. Change your sheets weekly and your pillowcase at least 2 to 3 times per week to help keep your skin clear. Disinfect your cellphone regularly. Wash, launder, or disinfect things that come into contact with your face regularly to avoid acne flare-ups.

Do Hair Products Cause Acne?

If you develop acne along your forehead, hairline, or the back of your neck, hair care products may be to blame.

If you develop acne along your forehead, hairline, or the back of your neck, hair care products may be to blame. Products like shampoo, conditioner, and styling products may trigger acne breakouts in these areas. So can hairspray, hair gel, waxes, and pastes. The name of acne triggered by products is acne cosmetica. Acne will clear up shortly after you stop using these products. Men should check shaving cream and aftershave, which can also contain pore-clogging oils.

Does Pollution Cause Acne?

Many experts agree that acne is an inflammatory condition.

Many experts agree that acne is an inflammatory condition. Results of some studies suggest that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of acne breakouts. Substances in air pollution including particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds are irritating to the skin. Pollution may trigger inflammatory acne. Following a good skin care regimen outlined by a dermatologist may help form a protective barrier on the skin, which may help protect against pollution and future breakouts.

Does Swimming Cause Acne?

Swimmer's acne may occur in people who spend lots of time in chlorinated water.

Swimmer's acne may occur in people who spend lots of time in chlorinated water. Chlorine dries out the skin and changes the pH of the skin, both of which may perpetuate the acne cycle. Shower after you swim to wash off chlorine and other chemicals that are in the pool. Apply moisturizer to your skin to combat the drying effects of chlorine. If you can't shower and wash chlorine off immediately after swimming, at least rinse off with water.

Acne: Causes, Solutions and Treatments for Adults

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