Adult acne is a vicious cycle that’s often swept under the rug. Not anymore. Li Ying Lim asks the experts to clue us in once and for all.
Breaking the cycle of adult acne once and for all
The hideous truth of adult acne is a bit like an urban myth. The causes are numerous – hormones, stress, diet, lifestyle – and solutions range from radical procedures to simple, wateronly cleansing. Is it any wonder that only a few can address this concern head on? “Contrary to popular belief, eating chocolates or oily food does not cause or aggravate acne,” says Raj Gnaesparan, managing director and co-founder of Clariface Skin Rejuvenation Centre in Bangsar. Dr. Jason Yip, resident dermatologist at The DRx Clinic, agrees and delves even deeper: “The main culprit is usually related to hormonal changes such as menstruation and pregnancy. Other reasons for hormonal changes that lead to adult acne include stress, lack of sleep, and polycystic ovarian syndrome ( PCOS), which is a female endocrine disorder.”
While oral prescriptions may be necessary to treat such conditions, there are also other prime suspects at play. “While in some cases it may be true that stress and hormonal imbalance are the causes of acne, acne bacteria would be the major contributor. So the moment you notice an outbreak, seek help immediately,” explains Gnaesparan.
Make-up, as well as certain skincare products, can exacerbate the situation. “Women often use make-up to cover up acne and scars but this may be counterproductive. Most cream-based make-up contain bismuth oxychloride and boron nitrate, which have been proven to cause skin sensitivity and cystic acne,” he continues. “Over-the-counter treatments aim to dry up
acne but leave behind dead skin cells. These can clog up the pores even further. The acne bacteria, however, still lies dormant and feeds on dead skin and sebum. As the pores are also clogged with white and blackheads, the acne gets further inflamed, leading to cystic acne. This is why most people may notice acne reccurring in the same spot over and over again.”
Even sunscreens can cause unwanted blemishes by clogging up pores if the face is not cleansed properly. Dr. Yip recommends this: “Physical-block sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide offer the best protection and are suitable for oily and sensitive skin. As they do not get absorbed into the skin, they do not cause allergies or clog pores. Alcohol or gel-based sunscreens are least likely to worsen acne.”
MAKE IT WORK
A good cleansing regime and clear understanding of what to feed your skin is imperative for sufferers of adult acne. “It really depends on the users’ preference and what end-benefit she is looking to achieve,” says Janet Pardo, vice president of global product development at Clinique.
The normal perception is that the creamier the texture of a product, the better it moisturises. In terms of efficacy, however, Pardo has her doubts. “The question is, effective at what? It is certainly more occlusive, which means it sits on the skin’s surface and may prevent moisture from escaping.” But it also sounds like a recipe for disaster with regard to oily skin. With a higher level of sebum production, bacteria is prone to spread faster.
“As a rule, I won’t recommend using any oil,” says Peter Thomas Roth, founder of the eponymous clinical skincare line. Likewise, Dr. Yip advises using any oil-free cleanser that contains glycolic and salicylic acid. “Gel-based cleansers are fine, but not oil-based ones as they tend to be too oily for our weather and may cause breakouts.” Gnaesparan however, is still cautious of gel formulas. “The molecule size and structure of gel may cause further blockage to the pores,” he warns.
But don’t worry about adding another treatment to your already crowded beauty regime just yet. Roth reveals that the key ingredients known to reduce acne, such as glycolic and salicylic acids, can also keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay.
However, to eradicate the unevenness left over from acne-inflamed skin, Dr. Yip believes laser treatment is still the best – and possibly only – way to completely erase leftover scars and shrink open pores. If you are not averse to slow and steady methods, Roth has another solution. “You can shrink pores temporarily.” He recommends using his Max Complexion Correction Pads.
Other than that, professional extraction is inevitable. “When you visit your aesthetician, you just have to ask her to go all the way and get all the impurities out, no excuses,” says Roth. “You have to clean it first before shrinking it. Once you squeeze the black and whiteheads out, the pores will get smaller.” “When our clients first start out with Clariface Acne Fix Therapy, we usually have them come back for a facial every two weeks. This frequency is dropped or adjusted accordingly depending on the severity of their acne condition,” says Gnaesparan, who also stresses on the importance of a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water for the overall health of the skin.
Thanks to scientific advancement, there may be no shortage of effective skincare solutions for a woman to choose from.
Nevertheless, for the complexion to look radiant and for acne to disappear for good, Roth is a firm believer of staying on top of it. “You have to really commit to a strict facial regime, and you just have to work harder than everyone else. The upside is that you will naturally have less wrinkles as you get older.”
“Clear, hydrated, calm skin that functions unimpeded is skin in balance. That’s healthy skin.” – Janet Pardo, vice president of global product development at Clinique