Acne is often considered to affect us only in our teenage years. We expect to enter our 20s with a magically clear complexion that endures for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, for many people this is not a reality. Adult acne is a problem that affects many people, even those who had the benefit of clear skin in their teenage years. It is an issue which can affect your self confidence, induce embarrassment, or contribute to feeling anxious.
What is acne and how does it occur?
Acne is the result of tiny holes in the skin, known as hair follicles, becoming blocked.
Attached to these hair follicles are sebaceous glands which lubricate the hair and the skin by producing an oily substance call sebum.
We experience acne when these glands produce too much sebum. The excess sebum can from a plug in the follicle by mixing with dead skin cells. If this plugged follicle is close to the surface of the skin it pops outward and creates a spot on the skin (often known as a whitehead).
Why does it occur?
Frustratingly, there is no one reason why acne occurs. However, there are common factors associated with breakouts that may be relevant to your individual experience.
Hormones: The most common reason for acne is an imbalance of hormones (this is why it is associated with teenagers). The sebaceous glands are particularly sensitive to hormones. It’s thought that increased levels of testosterone cause the glands to produce much more sebum than the skin needs.
Stress: For the same reasons acne is associated with stress. In response to stress, our bodies produce certain hormones which stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin leading to acne.
Family history: Acne can run in your family, if one or both of your parents had acne it is quite likely that you’ll get it too. Many finding support this genetic predisposition for acne.
Hair and skin care products: Often the cosmetic products we use on our face and bodies can irritate the skin and trigger breakouts. Be picky about the products you buy and use.
Medication side effect: Acne can be a side effect of some medicines. Speak to your doctor about the possibility of this and request a difference medicine if necessary.
The differences between teen and adult acne
One of the biggest differences between teenage and adult acne is the location of the blemishes. The pattern of acne differs as you get older. Teenagers often experience acne on their forehead and cheeks whereas adults experience it on the lower face, the jawline, or the neck. Similarly, adults are less likely to get acne on their body, for example on their back, as the oil glands on the body become less active with age.
Debunking acne myths:
• It is not caused by a poor diet; research has found no foods that specifically cause acne
• It is not caused by having ‘dirty skin’; the cleanliness of your skin doesn’t affect the triggers that cause acne, these occur beneath the surface of your skin.
• It is not infectious; you cannot pass it to others or contract it from others.
Dealing with adult acne
Mentally: Many people ignore, or do not understand, the psychological impact of suffering from acne during adulthood. Breakouts on visible areas such as the face or neck can impact your self confidence and make you feel unattractive or insecure. Often people can feel embarrassed that they are suffering from acne in adulthood as they expect to have clear skin at this stage of their lives. Whilst these feelings are understandable it is important to know that you are not the only person suffering from adult acne and there are steps to take to combat it.
Physically: If you are suffering from adult acne speak to your GP, they can prescribe medication or refer you to a dermatologist who can offer various treatments.
Has acne affected your self esteem? Did you seek medical help? Did this work? Start the conversation