When we think about the experiences we may have with acne breakouts, for some of us the phrase “bane of my existence” might be an effective way to describe the way we feel about it. Acne is a skin condition that can affect anybody at any age. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology will tell you that acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans a year. With it being such a prevalent problem, let’s talk about how it can affect you at different ages, and some ways you can treat acne.
WHAT IS ACNE?
To put it simply, acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged up with oil and dead skin cells. This can cause your skin to become inflamed, and if bacteria becomes trapped in the follicle, the body’s immune system reacts to the infection, causing pimples. These are some of the different types of acne:
- Whiteheads are clogged pores that become closed under the surface of the skin causing pores to swell.
- Blackheads are clogged pores that remain open. This open surface then turns black.
- Pimples, nodules, and cysts form when the wall of skin surrounding a clogged pore opens, allowing bacteria to seep into the skin’s deeper layers. Your body’s natural reaction to the bacteria is to create a large, red pus-filled mass.
Acne at this age is mainly caused by the hormone levels increasing during puberty. These hormones, known as androgens, increase the size of oil-producing skin glands, and your skin ends up producing more oil. As oil passes through large pores, they can become clogged, and you end up developing the hallmark blemishes at that spot. For boys, these hormones are usually testosterone and in girls, progesterone. Whether you have a rough patch with acne at this age, or a few spots here and there, depends on various factors, one of them being genetics. If your family has a history of developing acne, you probably will too. Other factors could be differences in testosterone levels, how your skin responds to acne, the type of bacteria present in your skin, and the type of products that may irritate your skin.
One of the differences between adult acne and teen acne is the location where acne occurs. In teenagers it occurs on the face, chest and back. For most teenagers, once their hormones start to level out, they will “grow out” of the acne breakouts.
Treating Teen Acne
This is a good time to start good skin care habits. They will serve you well throughout the years and will help you through your acne breakouts.
- Wash face gently once or twice a day with mild soap and water. Scrubbing can cause breakouts, so no facial scrubs or washcloths.
- Avoid picking and squeezing.
- If you use makeup, use water-based, non-comedogenic products, and remove makeup fully every day. Avoid pore-clogging ingredients like lanolin and mineral oil, alcohol toners which can cause your skin to produce more oil, artificial fragrances and colors that can irritate your skin, causing more breakouts.
- Look for products with salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells and prevent bacteria.
- Moisture and use SPF daily with non-oily products.
If you still feel that you are not getting the results that you need, consult your dermatologist for additional options. They will recommend treatments that are specific to your situation.
So, you start celebrating getting out of your awkward teenage years and along with it your acne. Not so fast…for some adults, the acne will continue through adulthood. And for some others that never experienced acne before, they will get adult-onset acne. For adults, acne is caused by the skin’s excess production of oil, or sebum. It does seem to affect more women, due mostly to hormonal fluctuations from menstruation and pregnancy. Other reasons for adult acne can be attributed to some medications, such as steroids, lithium and phenobarbital, some medical conditions, as well as irritation from hair spray and cosmetic products.
Both types of acne (teen and adult) can also be caused by contact irritations. Things like helmets, and face masks can create sweat on your skin. The combination of the friction and the sweat can irritate your skin, causing breakouts.
Adults normally will see acne breakouts on their chin, nose, and around the mouth area. Another difference between teen acne and adult acne is that as we age, skin cell turnover rates slow down, making it more difficult to heal from breakouts than when we were younger. As adults it is also a bit more challenging to treat acne due to skin sensitivities, dehydration, and pigmentation issues.
Treating Adult Acne
- Since adult skin can be more sensitive, you want to avoid harsher products that younger skin might be able to handle. Focus on spot treatments and balancing your skin.
- Avoid picking and squeezing. Your skin does not heal as quickly as younger skin, and picking can cause further breakouts, scarring or redness.
- Adult skin loses some of its ability to retain moisture. Use products that will not over dry your skin such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid to help remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and dirt. And don’t forget to moisturize with products that are not oily.
- You also need to meet all your other skin care needs. If you need to balance uneven skin tones, or are combatting aging, you can use products that contain retinol, and ingredients that help with skin tone.
DOES NUTRITION PLAY A ROLE IN ACNE?
One last thing that many people ask about is if certain foods cause acne. While it has not been proven that things like chocolate, junk food, or greasy, fried food causes acne, if you find that a specific food irritates your skin, try avoiding it. Some studies do suggest that dairy products and refined sugars can contribute to acne breakouts. Eating food low on the glycemic index and limiting your dairy intake might help improve your skin.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A DERMATOLOGIST?
Acne treatments need time work. If a treatment works for you, you should see an improvement in 4 to 6 weeks, and 2 to 3 months or longer to see the acne clearing. If you do not see improvement, sometimes adding a second treatment will work better. Be careful not to overdo it, for using too many products can also irritate your skin, making your acne worse.
Your Skin Care Provider can individualize your treatments to fit your specific skin, needs and issues. If you have been using over-the-counter products and they are not helping, reach out to our experienced Board-Certified Dermatologists and Cosmetic Specialists. Also see a dermatologist if your acne is severe and painful, or leaves scars and lesions on your skin. There are prescription treatments that can be more effective, such as Accutane, hormonal agents such as birth control, and antibiotics. Lasers and cosmetic procedures can also be used for the treatment of acne. Some of the effective cosmetic procedures that we offer at Vitalogy Skincare for the treatment of acne include the following:
Light Treatments aim high-intensity light at target areas to reduce blemishes, including acne. We offer Photorejuvenation and Photo Revelation that may be an effective acne solution for you.
This treatment removes the outermost layers of skin to reduce the appearance of blemishes, including acne scarring.
Chemical Peel treatments introduce medical grade acid solutions to the skin’s surface, removing the outer layers of skin thus revealing fresh new skin.Our Providers at Vitalogy Skincare specialize in the treatment of acne. Visit us online to request an appointment at any of our eight Central Texas area locations.