Adult Acne? Re­ally?

Break­outs can come as a sur­prise. Here’s how to treat them.

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Contents - SAMAN­THA RIDE­OUT

Break­outs can come as a sur­prise. Here’s how to treat them.

THE BAT­TLE WITH ACNE isn’t nec­es­sar­ily over just be­cause you’ve ex­ited your teen years. While ado­les­cents are fa­mously the most af­fected age group, some peo­ple deal with acne for decades. It’s even pos­si­ble to face the con­di­tion—the plug­ging of pores with oil, dead skin and bac­te­ria—for the first time as an adult.

Adult acne is of­ten caused by mul­ti­ple fac­tors work­ing in tan­dem. For women, th­ese can in­clude hor­mone fluc­tu­a­tions re­lated to men­strual pe­ri­ods, preg­nancy or menopause. For both sexes, ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion plays a role: two thirds of adult acne suf­fer­ers have at least one close bi­o­log­i­cal rel­a­tive with the same prob­lem.

Cer­tain hair or skin prod­ucts can clog the pores, so if you’re prone, look for la­bels such as “non-come­do­genic” or “non-ac­ne­genic.” De­spite pop­u­lar claims, the link be­tween diet and acne isn’t well es­tab­lished. There are plenty of rea­sons to eat well, but avoid­ing pim­ples isn’t proven to be one of them. How­ever, out­breaks can be trig­gered by cer­tain drugs (e.g., cor­ti­cos­teroids, lithium) or by stress­re­lated in­flam­ma­tion.

“There’s more acne among adults than there used to be,” says Dr. Françoise Poot, a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Academy of Der­ma­tol­ogy and Venere­ol­ogy. “We aren’t cer­tain why, but we at­tribute the in­crease mainly to more stress and fa­tigue.”

Com­pared to teen acne, the adult form tends to be milder yet more stub­born, es­pe­cially if pre­vi­ous bouts of acne have left the skin’s mi­crobes more re­sis­tant to treat­ment. Der­ma­tol­o­gists might give suf­fer­ers pre­scrip­tions con­tain­ing

ben­zoyl per­ox­ide (an an­ti­sep­tic and anti-in­flam­ma­tory agent), retinoids (vi­ta­min A de­riv­a­tives that help pre­vent pore plug­ging) or an­tibi­otics to erad­i­cate ex­cess bac­te­ria.

Many com­mon acne creams and pills ini­tially cause dry­ness, flak­ing, red­ness or flare-ups, and it can take up to eight weeks to see any im­prove­ment. Some pa­tients stop treat­ment be­fore it has the chance to start work­ing, so make sure you un­der­stand how to use your pre­scrip­tion and what to ex­pect from it.

While you’re wait­ing, don’t pick or scrub ag­gres­sively at your acne—it could cause scar­ring. In­stead, wash it gen­tly, no more than twice per day. If first­line treat­ments don’t work, your doc­tor can help you ex­plore other op­tions. For in­stance, oral con­tra­cep­tives (suit­able for women only) can be used to dial back the hor­mones that are caus­ing the skin to pro­duce ex­ces­sive oil. Adult acne re­quires pa­tience, but with pro­fes­sional help, vir­tu­ally ev­ery case can be con­trolled.

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