Q: I never had acne as a teen, but now I have adult acne. What can I do?
A: Adult acne is more common than you may think. Twenty percent of women aged between 25 and 40 are affected by it, so you are not alone. Hormonal imbalances, often a symptom of PMS, are generally at the root of outbreaks, causing overactive sebaceous glands to produce excess oil. Stress can also play a big role in hormonal balance, elevating cortisol levels (the stress hormone) that pave the way for acne eruptions. Certainly, as we approach menopause, significant hormonal swings can prompt acne outbreaks – even if it has been 20 years since you had a pimple.
Besides hormonal surges, adult acne can be triggered by bacteria introduced by frequent touching of the face. When you experience an outbreak, take careful note of your habits. When you exercise and work up a sweat, do you rub your face with your hands or a sweaty towel? Such practices can introduce and spread acne-causing bacteria, so be mindful of touching your face.
The first line of defense with adult acne is to commit to a “clean regime,” a consistent morning-and-night skin-care routine using oil-free products. Start by cleansing with a medicated cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Follow with a mild astringent and oil-free moisturizer, and use oil-free sunscreen during the day. You may benefit from using an exfoliation product 2–3 times a week to help keep pores clean and prevent breakouts before they occur.
Adult acne-prone skin may respond well to facials with ingredients that combat oil or soothe outbreaks. And stress-reducing practices like exercise, deep breathing, and meditation may help calm your body’s reactions.
I suggest consulting a dermatologist to help you assess the best treatments, which might include effective new formulations of topical retinoic (vitamin A) or alpha-hydroxy acids. Adult acne is no fun, so it’s worth getting expert advice and insight to put it behind you.