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It's easy to associate acne with youth. Hormonal changes, pubescence, teenage oily skin, stress, and poor (takeout) diet in our early 20s-these are all things commonly linked to pesky breakouts, or worse, cystic acne. So whenВ acne continues to rear its ugly head in our late 20s, 30s, or evenВ 40s, it's like our skin is playing some kind of sick joke on us. Why is adult acne even a thing?В ItВ seems like an oxymoron, if you ask us.В
Approaching the rest of our lives with hope and optimism, we asked some top dermatologists at what age does acne finally go away? Because, you know, it does eventually stop, right? Unfortunately, dear readers, we have some bad newsвЂ¦
"If underlying factors are not addressed, acne may not stop at all," explains Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, founder ofВ Episciences. "Twenty-six percent of 40-year-olds and 12% of 50-year-olds suffer from acne,В and 10% of females have oily skin from puberty on through their whole life."
Curses! So why does this happen?В There are actually a number of factors. Allow us to explain.
"There are several causes of adult acne including hormonal fluctuations, stress, and genetics," says Dr. Dennis Gross. "Adult acne usually begins in the late 20s to early 30s. Stress is a catalyst that can play a role in aggravating the condition. Genetics plays a large part as well. Hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy can affect adult acne, worsening or improving the condition. Another hormonal change that can affect adult acne is stopping the usage of birth control pills, as well as premenstrual hormonal fluctuation. Also, perimenopausal hormonal changes or fluctuations may change the oil chemistry of the skin, which can lead to adult acne."В
Dr. Thornfeldt says acne may be caused by the skin's allergy to yeast. If you thought yeast issues were only something that happened, well, down south, the skin can experience yeast overgrowth, which causes aggravation and breakouts. This can be a result of greasy lotions and oils, naturally oily skin, oral contraceptives, and stress, to name a few factors.ВOriginal Illustration by Emily RobertsВ
"Diet and lifestyle play a role in everything with the body from arthritis to wrinkles. Lifestyle isn't the cause of adultВ acne, but it's an influential factor.В Everyone must consider diet, sleep, and exercise, and minimize pro-inflammatory foods in their diet, like sugar and dairy. Gluten is controversial, but sugars and dairy are the biggest factors and people must cut back," explainsВ NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank. Dr. Thornfeldt also recommends avoiding other pro-inflammatory foods such as caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and starch.
Oil (Both the Presence and Absence of It)
Speaking of oily skin, aside from yeast allergies, overly oily skin, as we know, becomes easily plugged and inflamed. Even when we get older and we feel our skin is drying out, the absence of oil can cause acne (it's a losing battle, really). Says NYC dermatologist and founder of namesake brand, Dr. Dennis Gross, "WhenВ acne occurs, the oil is too thick and waxy for its own good. Instead of flowing freely through the pores, it becomes blocked and forms a plug. Adult acne is also often associated with dry skin, which can exacerbate an existing acneВ condition. When the skin is dry, the dead skin cells flake off and can further block pores that already have an oil flow problem incubating the bacteria and leading to acne. These clogged pores, aka flat acne, may result in the form of blackheads, or they may simply appear as enlarged pores on the skin's surface-this is generally the beginning stages ofВ acne."
Okay, enough of the bad news. How do we actually getВ rid of adult acne? Thankfully, all doctors interviewed say there's hope.ВDr. Dennis Gross All-Over Blemish Solution $42Shop
Dr. Gross says to look for exfoliating, pore-clearing OTC products. "To treat acne most effectively-yet gently-start out by using over-the-counter anti-acne remedies that contain either exfoliating, pore-clearing salicylic acid or bacteria-banishing benzoyl peroxide, such as my All-Over Blemish SolutionВ (discontinued). I recommend looking for products that contain bisabolol, an active ingredient derived from chamomile extract that helps soothe redness and reduce inflammation. Sulfur is also a powerful ingredient thatВ controls the oil that feeds the bacteria and can be found in Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur MaskВ ($42)."Epionce Lytic Plus Tx $54Shop
Dr. Thornfeldt also recommends products that address bacterial and yeast-causing acne, like his Epionce Lytic Plus Tx creamВ ($54). "It contains salicylic acid, azelaic acid, willow bark extract, and zinc pyrithione," he explains.
Lastly, Dr. Frank says if the acne is more aggressive, a visit to the dermatologist may be in order. "Oral treatments such as pills can be more effective than topical treatments. Accutane is more aggressive, and most dermatologists would agree that Accutane is underused. It's the only 'magic' pill we have. There is no cure for acne, and unfortunately, many patients show up and have already developed scarring of the skin. A patient should never get to the point when they have scarring of the skin. Accutane must be taken seriously, prescribed, and monitored."
Do you have adult acne? How do you address it? Please share with us below!