Prob­lem Solved

Adult acne


You wake up and look in the mir­ror—gasp! A big red pim­ple is po­si­tioned smack-dab in the mid­dle of your fore­head. That might sound like a night­mare from teenager­hood, but for many adults, zits are a frus­trat­ing real­ity. “Adult acne can be per­sis­tent and chal­leng­ing, and for some, it’s worse than hav­ing it as a teen be­cause it stands out more,” says der­ma­tol­o­gist John Bar­bieri, M.D., a post­doc­toral re­search fel­low at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia School of Medicine. Acne flares when oil, pro­tein, dead skin cells, and bac­te­ria com­bine to clog or in­flame pores, trig­ger­ing black­heads, white­heads, or bul­bous le­sions that may cause scar­ring. Hor­monal fluc­tu­a­tions can also trig­ger an erup­tion, which is why some women have acne flares that co­in­cide with their men­strual cy­cles and some ex­pe­ri­ence acne for the first time dur­ing preg­nancy or menopause. Stub­born marks can lead to poor self-im­age, de­pres­sion, and anx­i­ety, so try these tips to get or keep a clear com­plex­ion.


Stud­ies have linked acne with eat­ing high-glycemic-in­dex foods like re­fined grains and sug­ary foods and drinks, which can raise blood sugar and cause in­flam­ma­tion. “In­stead, eat a diet rich in whole grains and high-fiber fruits and veg­eta­bles,” says Julie Harper, M.D., clin­i­cal as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Alabama at Birm­ing­ham.


Stress causes the body to pump out hor­mones that stim­u­late oil glands, which can trig­ger acne out­breaks. Try stress-re­lief tac­tics like med­i­ta­tion, yoga, tak­ing a quiet walk, or un­wind­ing in a re­lax­ing hot bath.


Wash your face in the morn­ing, in the evening, and af­ter stren­u­ous ac­tiv­ity like yard work or a hard work­out—this

helps re­move dirt, de­bris, and makeup that may clog pores. “Look for cleansers that have ‘gen­tle,’ ‘mois­tur­iz­ing,’ or ‘non­come­do­genic’ on the la­bel,” Dr. Bar­bieri says. Rub lightly and don’t scrub, since this can ir­ri­tate acne and make it worse.


Over-the-counter acne prod­ucts con­tain­ing ben­zoyl per­ox­ide or sal­i­cylic acid can help clear clogged pores and re­duce acne-caus­ing bac­te­ria on the skin. Top­i­cal retinoids such as ada­pa­lene (Dif­ferin) and pre­scrip­tion tretinoin (Retin-A, Ren­ova) are an­other op­tion; they re­duce in­flam­ma­tion and pre­vent clog­ging of pores. Talk to a der­ma­tol­o­gist about which prod­uct to choose and how to use it prop­erly.


If OTC treat­ments aren’t cut­ting it, a der­ma­tol­o­gist can pre­scribe a top­i­cal an­tibi­otic. For acne that is deeper or re­sis­tant to top­i­cals, she can rec­om­mend oral an­tibi­otics or other meds such as spirono­lac­tone (Al­dac­tone) or isotretino­in (Ac­cu­tane) to help deal with the is­sue.


“A lot of med­i­ca­tions, es­pe­cially oral cor­ti­cos­teroids used to treat in­flam­ma­tory con­di­tions, can cause acne as a side ef­fect,” says Ronda Farah, M.D., as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Min­nesota Med­i­cal School. “Talk to your doc­tor or der­ma­tol­o­gist about dosage or an al­ter­na­tive.” Some oral con­tra­cep­tives can also help.

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