Adult Acne: 4 Tips for Avoiding Scars and Breakouts


Adult Acne: 4 Tips for Avoiding Scars and Breakouts

Just because you are no longer a teenager, it does not mean you will no longer have acne on occasion. Although not as common as teenage acne, adult acne still affects lots of adults. According to many studies, adult acne is a common problem all over the world. Research results also show women tend to get acne more often than men do.

The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology recently published a study on adult acne. Researchers studied the effects of age on acne prevalence. They found that 50 percent of women between 20 and 29 years’ experience acne. This percentage changes to 35 percent between 30 and 39 years, and then goes down to 26 percent between 40 and 49 years.

Because it is so common, you should know about the different aspects of adult acne. Read on to learn exactly what adult acne is, what causes it and how you can treat it. Be sure to keep reading until the end of this article where you’ll learn all about the precautions to take and how to avoid the scars that can originate from it.

Yes, You Can: Avoid Adult Acne Flare Ups

1. Clean your skin of fat, debris and keratin.

acneAcne is a broader term for pimples. Doctors often call it comedo. To understand what causes acne, you need to understand your skin and its structure in detail.

Your skin may look featureless to you, but it is more complicated than you may ever imagine. It is a living organ with millions of cells and a lot of specialized structures. One such structure is your body hair, which is basically an extension of your skin.

In your skin, a group of cells clumps to form a hair follicle. Hair follicles serve as nurseries for your body hair. These hair follicles produce a protein called keratin. Keratin binds together to form your hair.

Hair follicles are not just a bunch of cells, but actually have an intricate structure. These follicles also have several glands. These glands provide them with a bunch of different secretions. One such gland is the oil or sebaceous gland.

The main function of sebaceous glands is to produce an oily secretion. This oily secretion is vital for your hair as it helps your hair grow. It also gives your hair their luster and keeps them healthy. On the other hand, these sebaceous glands and their oily secretions make you prone to acne as well.

Acne arises when keratin along with skin debris gets accumulated inside your hair follicles. This debris may contain things like dirt and dead skin cells. Overactive oil glands, which release excess oil in the skin, combine with skin debris and keratin and aid clog your hair follicles. When that happens, it provides a suitable environment for the bacteria to grow. The oil your glands secret is rich in nutrients. In acne lesions, this oil starts feeding the acne causing bacteria.

These bacteria grow and cause inflammation in your skin. Inflammation is your body’s reaction to the growing bacteria. You may experience redness on the areas of your skin where there is acne, followed by slight itching. A popping pimple on your skin is your body’s response to the burden of bacteria and inflammation.

Acne can be of different types and severity:

  • acne vulgarisAcne Vulgaris: The medical terminology for teen acne.
  • Acne Rosacea: The term used for adult acne.

Adult acne is of two main types:

  • Non-Inflammatory Acne: The main problem in non-inflammatory acne is the buildup of oil. This oil mixes up with dead skin cells, keratin and dirt. The growth of bacteria in this type of acne and resultant inflammation is only minimal. Non-inflammatory acne is of two types: blackheads and whiteheads.If an acne lesion opens up, the oil in it comes into contact with the air. When that happens, the oil turns black and the lesion turns to a blackhead. If the lesion does not open, the oil stays protected from the air and the lesion appears white. Therefore, these lesions are often called the whiteheads.
  • Inflammatory Acne: Inflammatory acne represents a severe type of acne. In such cases, acne transforms into large, red marks on the skin that are painful to touch. Such type of acne is called cystic acne. Cystic acne can stay for years. If cystic acne is not treated properly, there is a high risk that you may get permanent scars.

Acne is not restricted to your face. You may get acne on your chest, back, upper arms and shoulders, as well. Experts believe that treating acne in adults is more difficult than it is in teenagers, because adult skin:

  • Tends to be prone to dryness or oiliness.
  • Shows signs of aging.
  • Is not as plump as is in teenagers.
  • Is more sensitive to different treatments than that of a teen. This restricts the available treatment options for treating adult acne.
  • Heals slower because collagen production slows down with age. Collagen is another skin protein that gives your skin its characteristic elasticity. The lack of collagen increases the possibility of scarring.

Whether you are susceptible to acne or not depends on more than the quality of your skin. It also depends on various other factors like your diet and lifestyle. Most importantly, it depends on your hormones, and the hormonal changes in your body. The hormonal changes in adults are drastic and long lasting. This makes their acne problems even more resilient compared to teenagers.

Your Best Solution is So Simple, You’ll Be Amazed

keep your skin cleanSo, from the discussion above, you might have noticed one recurring thing. It is that pollution, dirt, stacked up oil and bacteria are the main harbingers of this problem. Therefore, the easiest way to keep adult acne away is if you keep your skin clean on a consistent basis.

Here are some ideas for you to keep your skin clean and dirt and oil free:

  • Wash the infected area. Washing the infected area twice a day with a mild soap is a good idea. Try to make sure that the pH of the soap you buy suits your skin. As a rule of thumb, soaps and face washes with a pH of seven or near seven are suitable for all skin types. This will keep your pores unclogged and keep acne at bay.
  • Go gentle on your skin. Do not scrub or vigorously rub the area with acne. This will irritate your skin and have adverse effects on your acne.
  • Use a clean towel. Make sure you always use a clean towel to pat your skin. Also, never use someone else’s towel, as it transfers bacteria from their body to your skin. If your acne problem is severe, you better have a separate towel for that affected area only.
  • Be vigilant in buying your skincare products. Try to understand your skin before you buy any skincare product. Using the wrong product may worsen your acne problem.Here are some tips that may help:
    • Prefer natural or herbal products as their ingredients are less aggressive.
    • Always buy your skincare products from a trusted source and of a known brand.
    • Try to match the pH of your skincare product with the pH of your skin. A pH close to seven is optimum for any skincare product.
    • Always check any product you may buy for its propensity to cause allergic reactions. That is because such allergic reactions will only worsen your acne.

    Allergy Test Your Skin

    Here is how to do it:

    • Wash your hands thoroughly with plain tap water.
    • Apply a small amount of any product on the back of your hands.
    • Wait for 10 to 15 minutes before washing it off.
    • If your skin tolerates the product for this long, it is generally suitable for you.

Identifying the cause of your acne is the next step you need to take towards a permanent solution. How to do that? The details are in the next section.

2. Triggers like stress, medications, menopause and hormonal imbalances can cause acne.

Photo by Becky Wetherington / CC BY

There are many factors that may be the reason behind your acne problem. Hyperactive oil glands which tend to produce excess oil are one of the primary reasons for acne.

One of the paramount steps in controlling your acne is identifying your acne trigger. Once you have identified that trigger, you should then work to mitigate it. If you can find a pattern in your acne break outs you will know what action to take to eliminate your acne.

Identify Your Acne Triggers

To identify your acne triggers, keep a daily journal for six to eight weeks. Include foods and drinks, exercise, rest, weather, life events and more. Soon, you’ll be able to identify your personal triggers so you can avoid them.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do flare ups occur around the time you have a big project or meeting at work?
  • Do you have acne at any point over your monthly cycle?
  • Does acne happen when you take a certain medication or have trouble with your bowels?
  • Does the hot summer weather or a sauna cause flare ups for you?
  • Do spicy foods or too much alcohol cause acne issues?

Some of the trigger factors that encourage acne and possible preventive measures are as follows:

  • Identify your dietary triggers. Studies have tried to find the link between diet and acne. Several of them have found that there is indeed a connection between these two.Here are the kinds of foods you should avoid:
    • Sugary foods
    • Unhealthy saturated fats and fried items
    • Dairy products
    • Processed food itemsoFoods with a high glycemic index, including breads, rice, pasta and sweets. In general, watch for anything that contains bleached white flour or grains, which can lead to acne. The glycemic load is the ability of a food to increase the sugar levels in your blood.
    healthy, balanced diet
    Photo by Day Donaldson / CC BY

    Here are the foods you should try instead:

    • Acne is a sign of bad health. For a good health, eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in green vegetables and fruits.
    • Try soy based products as an alternative to dairy products.
    • Choose unprocessed grains.
    • Go for organic food items.
  • Do whatever you can to tame your stress. Stress causes an increase in the level of androgens. Androgens are your body hormones that activate the sebaceous glands. These glands then secrete oil, which clogs the pores in your skin, causing acne.Here are some tips for you to decrease stress levels in your daily life:
    • Be an early riser. Try to wake up early in the morning. Go out and breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful sunrise. This has a positive psychological effect on your brain.
    • Try yoga or breathing exercises. Try doing yoga or go for breathing exercises either in the morning or in the evening.
    • Laugh it out. Laugh your stress out. Do not hold back and laugh as much as you can.
    • Do not make unnecessary use of electronics. Do not spend long hours in front of TV or computer. This habit increases the levels of stress hormones in your body.
    • Be more social. Spend more time with your friends and family. Play with kids. These methods have proven anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects.
    • Be active. Involve yourself in a sport or a physical exercise. It is a good way to channel your negative emotions and stress into something constructive. Physical exercise is also a proven method to decrease the levels of stress hormones.
    • Getting enough sleep. Get at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep daily. Poor quantity of quality of sleep increases stress hormones.
    • Stay hydrated. Drinking six to eight glasses of water daily can reduce stress and flush out toxins from your system, which reduces acne breakouts. Drink a glass in the morning and at night, and one with each meal, as well. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go to stay hydrated. Remember, hydration is cumulative, so you need to keep sipping all day.
  • pregnancySome medicines can cause acne. Prescription drugs such as barbiturates, lithium and corticosteroids can cause acne. If you are using any such drug, ask your doctor to change it to something friendlier to your skin.
  • Pregnancy and your hormones can be a trigger, too. Progesterone or the pregnancy hormone, which is high in pregnant women, can cause the sebaceous glands to start producing too much oil leading to acne breakouts. If that is the case with you then your problem will resolve on its own soon after your pregnancy. You may talk to your gynecologist as well.
  • Menstruation affects your hormones and also causes acne. Even during menstruation, many women experience acne breakouts. That is because of the hormonal imbalances in their bodies during menstruation. The fluctuating levels of estrogen during menstruation can make you prone to acne.If that is the problem with you, you should talk to your gynecologist. Ask her to prescribe some medicines to normalize your estrogen levels during menstruation.
  • Skincare products or make-up can wreak havoc on your pores. The oils in your skin care products often clog the pores causing acne. Try to go for a product that suits your skin. Browse the shelves of your drug store for oil-free creams, moisturizers and sunscreens. Avoid the use of astringents, toners and exfoliators that cause dry skin.

3. Popping your acne pimples may make it worse or leave you with stubborn scars.

When a pimple is staring back at you in the mirror, you might get the urge to pop it. But this is not going to help. Popping and prodding the pimple might push the bacteria and the debris deeper into the skin. This makes the area red and swollen. As a worst case scenario, it may leave a permanent scar on your skin.

A pimple, if left alone, could heal in three to seven days. But when prodded, might take more than few weeks or even months to heal. Also popping a pimple might release pus, which will leave scabs. If you pick these scabs, it can lead to serious scarring.

acneAlso, there is a high chance that you will experience skin discoloration. You may also aggravate the infection if you try to pop the pimple with dirty hands, tools or in a non-sterile environment.
So it is best if you leave your acne as it is and take care of your skin and health instead. Leave the job of popping the pimples to your dermatologist.

A dermatologist performs an acne surgery using sterilized equipment. Also, the dermatologist uses the right pressure and technique to remove your zits. But when you try to do that at home, there is a high chance that your acne lesion will leave behind hideous scars.

4. Talk to your dermatologist about treatments available for acne breakouts and acne scars.

Adult acne tends to cling and does not go away on its own or even with routine measures. If that is the case, then it is time for you to try something rigorous. Once you have identified the cause of your acne, it is time to talk to your dermatologist about it.

Remember, there are no overnight or immediate cures. But, there is a wide range of medication and surgical treatment options available. Your dermatologist may prescribe them to you to manage mild to severe breakouts.

Your Medication Options: Top Tools to Manage Your Break Outs

The available treatment options to prevent future breakouts and scars include medications that come in the form of pills, creams and ointments, such as:

  • Tretinoin: Tretinoin is also sold as Retin-A. Dermatologists prescribe it to help unclog the skin pores and provide relief from acne.
  • antibiotics
    Photo by Global Panorama / CC BY-SA

    Antibiotics: The uncontrolled growth of bacteria is another important contributor to adult acne. To kill these bacteria and reduce inflammation, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics.

  • Isotretinoin: This drug is in use to help reduce the activity of overactive sebaceous glands. This drug also lowers the level of acne causing bacteria. Not just that but it also functions to limit skin inflammation.
  • Androgen Blockers: Your acne maybe the result of hormonal imbalances. In such scenario, your doctor may prescribe drugs to restore your hormonal balance. Once your hormones get back to normal, you see betterment in your acne too. One such drug is androgen blockers. As mentioned before, high levels of androgens make you susceptible to acne. Your doctor may use androgen blockers such as spironolactone in such case.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid: These drugs are a part of topical therapy for mild acne. These drugs dry up your acne lesions and have potent anti-bacterial properties. These drugs also help mitigate inflammation.

Surgical Procedures: Hope When All Else Fails You

Acne can cause severe physical and psychological problems. Acne or scarring due to acne can cause you to have poor self-esteem. It may also cause depression and anxiety. If nothing else works, here are some surgical procedures that your dermatologist may recommend you undergo:

  • Surgery: Your dermatologist may resort to surgery in case of a severe acne breakout. The dermatologist may use a sterilized scalpel to break open the pimple and drain it. This helps prevent scarring in the future.
  • scalpelLaser or Light Based Therapies: These therapies include giving laser or light therapies to the affected skin. This kills the acne causing bacteria and treats the inflammation too. Laser or light is also used to shrink the oil secreting glands so as to prevent the excess oil from causing acne.
  • Chemical Peels: In this treatment, your doctor may apply a mild chemical solution to your affected skin area. These peels have potent acne suppressing acids like alpha-hydroxy, glycolic and lactic acid.
  • These acids unclog the pores and remove dead skin, whiteheads and blackheads. These peels also make way for new skin growth. This eliminates the possibility for future acnes breakout and scarring
  • Steroid injections: For severe, painful acne which may take weeks to resolve on its own, your dermatologists may prescribe steroid injections. These injections can flatten the lumps and clear the skin quickly.

There are several reasons why you may experience acne breakouts in your adult life. Even though your acne does not feel any different from the breakouts you had as a teen, there are many ways adult acne is different from a teenager’s. Besides going to a doctor and opting for medication or surgery, you can take some steps to keep your acne in check. Eating right, maintaining skin hygiene and reducing stress are some ways. Also, choosing the right skincare products can help you sustain your glowing, healthy skin and fight acne forever.


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