Adult acne: Why grown women get acne and how to control it

Friday, August 3, 2012
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If you survived your teenage years only to succumb to acne as an adult, you're not the only one: Cape Girardeau dermatologist Dr. Charles M. Moon says about half of the acne he sees is in adults. Women, in particular, may develop acne after age 25 or 30. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology reports acne is becoming more common for women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s.

"There is often a strong hormonal component," says Moon. "This form of acne is often on the lower face, around the mouth, along the jawline and the upper neck. It can be very difficult to treat."

Acne may also develop during or after a pregnancy and stick around for the long haul, says Moon.

So why are some women blessed with clear skin while others fight breakouts for years?

Dr. Jamie D. Harrison, a family medicine physician at Southeast Primary Care, says acne is caused by excess oil in the pores, which acts as a food source for the P. acnes bacteria, which then leads to breakouts.

"The presence of a hormone called androgen increases this," she says. "We typically think of this as a male hormone, but the truth is all women have a low level of androgen in their blood that is normal."

Harrison recommends cleansing and moisturizing the skin daily and drinking plenty of water. Try not to pick at breakouts, as that increases the chance of scarring. Skin care products in noncomedogenic and sensitive-skin formulas are best for acne-prone skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. And if you're a smoker, Harrison says the best thing you can do for your skin is quit.

But acne can be stubborn, even with a good skin care routine. If you need a little help, Harrison says prescription medications are available to treat acne, including antibiotics to kill bacteria and topical agents to dry up pimples.

"Oral antibiotics at low dose for an anti-inflammatory effect are often employed in moderate to severe cases," says Moon. "There are a variety of topical antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and Retin-A products that are employed."

Retin-A also has mild anti-aging benefits, says Moon, so using products with this ingredient will address pimples as well as fine lines and wrinkles -- another skin concern for adult women.

"Many of the newer Retin-A products are combined with topical antibiotics for added pimple-fighting properties," says Moon. He recommends using a Retin-A product at bedtime and protecting skin during the day with a sunblock that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Is it more than acne?

If you have pimples accompanied by facial redness or flushing, it could be rosacea. It's different from acne and has a strong genetic component, says dermatologist Dr. Charles Moon of Advanced Dermatology in Cape Girardeau. Rosacea may also include a gritty feeling in the eyes, bloodshot eyes or styes in the eyelids. The flushing and pimples can be triggered by hot or spicy foods, alcohol, sunlight or heat, says Moon. Treatments are available for rosacea, so see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

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