Adult-onset acne occurs after age 18. Although men also get adult acne, women are more prone. The alternate names for acne in adults are post-adolescent acne or female adult acne. Adult acne is different from teen acne – there are less comedones, breakouts are rarely severe, scarring is rarely seen and outbreaks are more often on the chin, jawline and lower part of the cheek.
Acne in adults manifests mostly as inflammatory papules, pustules or nodules.
Causes of Adult Acne
In adult women, one cause of onset of adult acne is an increased response to androgen the male hormone and lesser response to progesterone, the female hormone. Ingestion of drugs and hormones such as oral contraceptives, performance enhancing drugs or certain food products by adult women has androgenic effects that can cause acne outbreaks.
Discontinuing birth control pills and other medications like anticonvulsants, sobriety drugs or corticosteroids can also cause outbreak of acne in adults. Stopping prescription medications before completing the full dosage can also cause acne. Those with a family history of acne and suffer from stress can suffer from acne.
An adult woman often contracts acne during menstrual cycles. This acne appears just at the time of your cycle and disappears a few days after. Sometimes, it can last even a month.
Pregnant women suffer from enormous hormonal upheaval. The levels of both progesterone and estrogen rise and the skin becomes sensitive and reacts to these changes by producing more oil that causes clogged pores and acne outbreaks. Pregnancy acne manifests as inflammatory pustules and is bad throughout the first trimester.
Post-menopausal women can also get acne outbreaks when estrogen levels reduce and testosterone becomes the overriding hormone.
In men, acne after the age of 20 is rare. Acne in men occurs when teen acne does not disappear, or due to vigorous physical activity by athletes. In the latter case, acne outbreaks are seen on the back and chest. If a man takes performance enhancing drugs that contain steroids, they can develop acne as adults. Sometimes, men develop lesions that look like acne but are actually folliculitis caused because of shaving the face or other parts of the body.
Finally, cosmetic products used on the hair (pomades) and skin can cause acne in adults. This is called acne cosmetica.
Treatment for Adult Acne
Maintaining proper hygiene by cleansing your skin regularly is important. OTC medications are first used to treat acne in adults. These creams, lotions or gels contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sufur or rescorcinol. They kill bacteria, dry excess skin oil and help with peeling off top layer of the skin. Sometimes, these medications cause redness of the skin.
If outbreaks persist, your dermatologist may prescribe prescription medications. Topical antibiotics that contain erythromycin, clindamycin or dapsone are normally used. Oral medications take the form of oral antibiotics like doxycycline, tetracycline, erythromycin, minocycline, trimethoprim or amoxicillin. Pills like spironolactone or birth control pills may be prescribed for women with acne caused by hormonal imbalance.
Topical retinoids like Retin-A or tretinoin and topical azelaic acid are also used. Benzoyl peroxide combined with antibiotics like erythromycin is also effective.
For deep seated acne, isotretinoin is prescribed. However, this medication is not prescribed for pregnant woman for it causes birth defects in the unborn fetus. Women of childbearing age are often advised to take two types of birth control pills before, during and after isotretinoin treatment.
For persistent scars, minor surgical procedures like photodynamic therapy, dermabrasion, chemical peels, and drainage of cysts or injecting cortisone into individual cysts can be used.
Alternative therapies for acne in adults include nutritional and dietary supplements like zinc, Vitamin A, niacinamide or L-carnitine. These supplements control inflammatory acne. Herbs such as tea tree oil, guggul and several ayurvedic medications attack bacteria and lessen inflammation etc. Guggul has similar effects as tetracycline with none of the side effects. Homeopaths can also treat acne in adults using herbs such as belladonna, calendula, kali bromatum, silicea or hepar sulphur.
Do not ignore acne as an adult. It could be the cause of a more serious health condition especially if a woman also suffers fro bald patches on the scalp, irregular periods or excessive facial hair. These are some symptoms of polycystic ovaries or adrenal hyperplasia.
There is no way to avoid acne in adults when it is caused due to hormone fluctuations. However, there are certain precautionary measures that can control outbreaks. Since the root cause is clogged pores, it is important to follow proper cleansing routine. Use a mild and sensitive skin cleanser that can hydrate and heal the skin. Cleansers that use natural ingredients like tea tree oil posses antibacterial and antiseptic properties that penetrate clogged pores, clear impurities and heal acne lesions.
Natural products like glycolic acid mixed with honey or olive oil, applied to the skin can clear impurities. This is a good scrub and must be applied gently to the skin.
It is true that too much chocolate does not cause acne. However, excessive sugar and refined carbohydrates do have a negative impact on the health of your skin. So, consume plenty of wholesome foods, fresh foods and nutritional snacks. Chamomile applied to the skin reduces toxicity and inflammation. Drinking chamomile tea also produces many health benefits.
A combination of various treatments is the best way to deal with acne in adults and provide a clean complexion.