One of the most frustrating skin issues that many women face is adult acne. It can feel especially difficult to deal with when you’re past your teenage years and you think the days of unblemished skin are behind you.
There are a number of possible causes for adult acne:
- Hormone changes including from pregnancy and contraceptives
- Diet, which can also be affected by hormones, and your environment
- Skincare products and cosmetics
Why are hormones such a big factor when it comes to adult acne?
Your hormone levels may change every month with your menstruation cycle. When you take contraceptives, you’re adding hormones like progesterone and estrogen to your body, and when you get pregnant, a whole host of other hormones go up and down throughout your body. These hormones can cause your skin glands to create more sebum, which is an oily or waxy substance. By having an excess amount of sebum on your skin, this could clog up your pores and cause adult acne. The type of acne that you might see is called “nodular” or “cystic” acne, which are bigger bumps on the skin and may result in scarring.
How can diet be affecting my skin?
When you eat a lot of meat, the hormones in your meat might cause your skin to create more sebum. Other items like fats, sweets and carbohydrates increase fat and oil in your system, which can also lead to additional sebum production. This isn’t to say that it will happen to you! How your diet affects your body is definitely unique to you. For me personally, I know that when I eat a lot of cake, I’ll see blemishes on my skin.
How do beauty products affect adult acne?
A lot of adult women wear makeup daily; however, makeup and the products you use during your skincare regimen could be causing acne. For example, your products might be adding too much oil to your skin or taking too much away. It can be difficult sometimes to find the right balance.
Are there people who are more prone to breakouts?
There is definitely an interplay between your diet and your genetics. If high cholesterol or diabetes runs in your family, you may be more susceptible to breakouts. These are called metabolic syndromes, which is basically how your body processes sugars. For people that have these syndromes, it affects the signals that your body sends based on your diet. Some people who are more stressed at work may also be prone to breakouts because stress creates cortisol, which turns to sugars in your body and creates additional sebum. Alcohol can also be a big offender because you are consuming sugars that may create excess sebum.
If I have adult acne, how can I seek help?
The first step in treating adult acne is seeing a doctor like me. When you have a session using Doctor on Demand, I can take a look at the type of acne that you are dealing with. From there, the next course of action would be to recommend a treatment that is the least invasive and to rule out other factors like cosmetics and diet. One thing I tell my patients to keep in mind is that it may take some time, but there are definitely ways to address the issue. In addition to getting you on a good skin care regimen, treatments with Vitamin A are also great options.
How do I select skin care and cosmetics that would be good for my skin?
The first rule of thumb I give my patients is: less is more. Take a look at the ingredient list. If there are a lot of chemicals you don’t recognize, it might be good to stay away from that product. Brands that have been around for a long time are also a good place to start. Since they have been around a long time, this means other consumers may have used them without any problems. Be aware that some products with alcohol can dry your skin, which causes your skin to overproduce sebum and may lead to acne. And it’s always best to stay away from perfumes and chemicals.
What are some misconceptions about adult acne?
A common mistake is to assume that all skin bumps are acne. That’s not necessarily the case! Some skin bumps could look very close to acne, but it’s actually a skin infection. When you have an appointment with a healthcare provider on Doctor on Demand, we’ll be able to see whether or not it is acne or something else. If you’ve been afflicted with adult acne and have scars, there are treatments available.
Adult acne can be extremely frustrating, but remember: it’s not your fault! It can be a combination of a lot of factors. However, the good news is that adult acne is something that can definitely be addressed.
About the author
Dr. Maisha Pesante a Doctor On Demand board-certified physician completed her Doctorate of Medicine at University of Cincinnati in 2005. In July 2010, she completed her residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, Dr. Maisha has been based in North Carolina, working with patients using compassion, spirituality, and culture as part of her care.