How to Deal With Adult Acne

Acne is usually associated with teenagers and is often viewed as a problem of youth. However, half of the teenagers who suffer from acne continue to experience symptoms as adults, and by age 40, one per cent of men and five per cent of women are still suffering. The problem can even appear for the first time in adulthood. By the time you reach your forties, you would expect to be dealing with wrinkles, not spots – so dealing with both can be difficult. Yet many of us have to do just that. Acne remains a common condition as people age, with even high-profile celebrities confessing to the problem.

Causes of Adult Acne

Diet, lifestyle and poor personal hygiene are often held responsible for adult acne, which is why the condition causes so much embarrassment for adult sufferers. However, at any age, the causes of acne are similar.

Hormones: As with teenage acne, adult acne is also caused by an abnormal response from the skin to ordinary levels of testosterone, which control sebum production in the sebaceous glands. Adult acne is usually more common in women and this is due to changes in hormones due to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the menopause. Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are particularly affected since they have higher levels of testosterone, which leads to increased sebum production. PCOS also causes coarser hair growth which means hair follicles can be more easily blocked.

Genes: Some research has established a familial link when it comes to developing acne, with one twin-based study finding that up to 80 per cent of acne cases have a genetic element. So if acne has been in your family, it's more likely it may prove a more persistent problem.

Stress: Our lifestyles and job are increasingly hectic, so it's little wonder scientists have looked at whether increased stress levels can be a trigger for adult acne. Some experts agree that acne seems to worsen at stressful times such as exams and job interviews. A study of male and female university students showed a link between feelings of stress at exam times and the severity of acne. This could be because stress stimulates the adrenal glands into producing hormones, leading to extra production of sebum.

Other Causes: Acne can be a side effect of some medicines, including corticosteroids, anti-epileptics and some mood-stabilising treatments such as Lithium. There has been increased publicity in the last few years about the use of performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, which make acne more likely.

Adult Acne Treatments

Adult acne can be treated successfully with a range of topical treatments containing acne-fighting ingredients such as topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Adult sufferers should take care to find treatments that aren't too harsh on the skin as older skin is more likely to need more soothing ingredients. It is also important to seek advice from your GP or dermatologist before choosing your treatment.