Facing Adult Acne

Those who are reunited with the pimples from high school don’t necessarily need to cover up

People expect to see pimples on their face when they look at their high school yearbook photo, but what about photos from the 20-year reunion? Acne in adults is not uncommon, yet the condition can be disheartening for those who thought they had left pimples behind along with the cracking voice and mood swings of their teenage years. Why does acne persist into some people’s adult years and what, if anything, can be done?

“The tendency to have acne is inherited,” says dermatologist Rebecca Campen, MD. “Hormone stimulation of sebaceous glands, excessive oiliness of skin, and occlusion of pores by makeup all contribute to the development and persistence of acne. An additional factor is the presence of the bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, which is present in acne lesions and promotes inflammation.”

An occlusion is an obstruction that can be caused by certain skin care products such as heavy creams or makeup.

“The less makeup, the better,” Dr. Campen says. “If you feel you must wear make-up, use oil-free products and try for just a little concealer and loose powder.”

 Adults with acne may also remember the warnings of eating pizza and chocolate during their adolescent years. The popular belief was that certain foods could actually cause more pimples.

“There is less emphasis on diet these days as a cause of acne flares,” Dr. Campen says, but notes that “it is still best for your overall health to eat a healthy diet.”

Treatment for adult acne depends on its severity and the patient’s skin type. Mild cases can be treated with topical antibiotics or medicated skin creams that are prescribed by a dermatologist. More severe adult acne (which includes painful cysts around the cheeks, chin, upper neck, and back) often requires oral antibiotics or isotretinoin, better known as Accutane.

“Cosmetic treatments such as facial peels can also be helpful,” Dr. Campen says. She reminds patients that good skin is tied to good health practices overall, such as eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise, avoiding stress, and having regular check-ups with your doctor.
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