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5 reasons adults get acne — and how to fight it

By The Health News Team | October 6, 2016
5 reasons adults get acne — and how to fight it

“It’s not fair,” you say as you glance in the mirror. Along with the expected lines and dark circles of middle age, you see something unexpected, and definitely unwelcome — acne.

“There is a misconception that acne is just for teenagers,” says Dr. Mona Mofid, a dermatologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “Some people never outgrow the acne from their teen years and some will experience acne throughout life with hormonal changes.”

According to Dr. Mofid, adult acne outbreaks occur for five main reasons:

1. Stress. If you notice a breakout along your jawbone, stress hormones may be the culprit. Any of the things that provide stress in our lives — a new job, relationships, financial concerns — can lead to stress-related breakouts.

2. Changes in hormones. Our bodies change with age. Some changes are visible, some are physical — but they are inevitable. Any change in hormones — whether due to pregnancy, your menstrual cycle, a change in birth control or natural, internal changes — can cause an increase in acne.

3. Touching your face. From your hands to your cellphone or a loved one’s gentle pat, the things that touch your face throughout the day can transmit dirt and germs, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.

4. Beauty products. Makeup, concealer, hair gel, hairspray — while these products are used to improve appearance, they can also lead to unintended breakouts if left on the skin for too long or if they travel to your face when they are meant solely for your hair or body.

5. Not washing your face. Your mother told you to do it and she’s rarely wrong — wash your face. Wash before a workout because pores dilate during activity and any product or environmental pollutants on your face could fill pores and cause a breakout. Wash after a workout to remove the resulting sweat and grime, and again each night to remove all that the day left on your skin.

6. Food. There's new data suggesting that the food we eat, especially dairy products (milk, in particular), may contribute to flare-ups. While the exact link is not clear, it may be due to growth factors and hormones in milk. Sweets and carbs can be culprits, too. While chocolate gets a bad rap, it's the sugar, not the cocoa that may cause acne.

The good news is that treating adult acne does not have to break the bank or require trips to the aesthetician. Dr. Mofid says that regardless of what we hear or read in magazines about the latest lines of miracle skin care routines, we can avoid what she calls the “bells and whistles of marketing” and follow a few basic steps to care for our skin and fight acne:

  • Use a store-bought anti-acne wash in the shower

  • Follow by applying witch hazel on a clean cotton pad to oily and acne-prone areas

  • Moisturize only if your skin is dry, not if it’s oily

  • Always apply sun protection — powder or formulas geared toward acne-prone skin are less likely to lead to breakouts

  • If you must use makeup, use non-pore-clogging or anti-acne formulas

  • At night, apply a product with retinol, a derivative of vitamin A that helps prevent signs of aging, wrinkles and acne

  • If acne persists, talk with your dermatologist about appropriate topical or oral prescription treatments

Dr. Mofid also recommends that all skin care products are used on both the face and down the V-neck area of the chest. She encourages us to avoid added hormones in meat, eggs and dairy products by choosing organic when possible. Finally, she says that we have to focus on our overall lifestyle.

“Healthy living leads to a healthy body and less stress,” she says. “Know your body, be aware of stressors, exercise, meditate and eat well because it’s all connected. You can make a difference in your health and the health of your skin by the choices you make.”

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