When we think of acne we often think of teenagers. Acne is supposed to be one of those drawbacks of being a teen. Something that makes the rest of us resent their wrinkle-free foreheads, supple joints and glossy hair a bit less. As we age we’re generally more worried about crow's feet, loosening muscles and preventing the stresses and busyness of everyday life from showing on our faces. Acne is not something we’re expecting to make a return visit or even first appearance.
Yet, a survey by the National Library Of Medicine in 2021 published a survey stating that acne was being experienced by 35.2% of women aged 30-39 years and 20.1% of men of the same age. In fact, although in teenage years it’s boys who are more likely to develop acne, women are statistically more likely to suffer from acne in later years. The good news is that the percentage of all those experiencing acne begins to fall at 40 but there are still many adults who suffer from acne and we don’t really talk about it. Acne is taboo but this just means many of us don’t understand the cause and we don’t know how to treat adult acne.
So, let’s see if we can help enlighten you.
What Causes Adult Acne?
Adult acne is no different from teenage acne. It is caused when pores become blocked with oil or dead skin cells. This can be a result of the skin overproducing natural skin oils, specifically sebum. This can be triggered by a rise in hormones which is why it's so prevalent in adolescence. Hormonal acne tends to present itself around the chin and jawline.
Acne can also be triggered by cosmetic products, smoking and some medications. Lastly, acne can be caused by the overzealous shedding of the epidermis. The epidermis is the top layer of skin which is supposed to shed and be replaced with new skin cells. However, in those with abnormal shedding, by the time the new cells reach the surface they have already dried out, so the skin continuously sheds resulting in pores becoming blocked with traces of dead skin.
A common misconception is that acne is caused by lifestyle. Many leap to this conclusion and set about emitting certain foods from their diets, washing their face more frequently and even reducing exercise. The somewhat good and somewhat bad news is that hygiene and lifestyle are not a cause of acne. It can be a factor in aggravating it but the cause is likely hormonal and often genetic. Of course, this is both comforting and frustrating because, if you’re anything like me you love a problem that you can solve with natural solutions. The positive takeaway though is that acne is not your fault.
What Are The Symptoms Of Adult Acne?
Of those who experience acne, there is a vast scale. Some women may have a breakout during menstruation which is likely caused by changes in hormones. Others have a more consistent problem and the acne may cover larger parts of the face and even the back and chest.
Acne presents in the form of spots that, when clustered together can appear more as a rash. You may be seeing blackheads, whiteheads, papules and even cysts. You may be suffering from oily skin and you may find that your skin becomes more sensitive and even painful to the touch, depending on the types of spots you have.
How To Treat Adult Acne
There is no easy cure for acne. Usually, because acne is tied to our hormones or our skin overreacting or overproducing, acne is managed rather than cured. Many people experience outbreaks of acne and some last years, others only get them during menstruation or for a few weeks or months, likely caused by a spike in hormones. This means that although the length of time acne flare-ups are a problem will vary, they do come to an end in time. However, you’ll want to be sure that when they do you are not left with scarring. This brings us to our first piece of advice - don’t try to pop spots yourself. Some can (and should) be popped, whereas others should definitely not be and doing so can cause scarring. For this reason, this kind of treatment is best left to a professional who will not only know the difference but will be able to use sterile equipment to prevent infection.
Here are a few ways to treat adult acne yourself:
Mild Face Cleaner
Many acne sufferers immediately take to washing their face more frequently but, as mentioned earlier, acne is not caused by bad hygiene. That doesn't mean that not keeping your face clean won’t aggravate it. Naturally, it’s important to wash your face daily, preferably in the morning and the evening. We need to wash away any dirt build-up and toxins and help those extra oils and dead skin cells leave the skin’s surface. Whilst this won’t cure your acne it will help your skin breathe and stay hydrated.
When washing your face, we recommend using a mild face cleanser. By mild, we mean not packed full of chemicals. Your skin is already sensitive and it’s very easy to aggravate with products that are too heavy-handed. So, you’ll be looking for an all-natural cleanser. We have a whole range of vegan, natural, cruelty-free oil cleansers that would be suitable. Yet, our Lustrous natural oil cleanser is specially formulated to tend to acne-prone skin.
It’s a huge misconception that oil products should not be applied to oil-prone skin. On the contrary, oil cleansers are the best way to remove excess oil from the skin because oil and oil, unlike oil and water, mix. Therefore an oil cleanser can be used to entice those natural skin oils away from our pores.
Apply your oil cleanser to dry skin and take thirty seconds to massage it in with your fingertips. This will ensure it sinks into those deeper layers of your skin. Next, use a clean wet cloth to remove the oil and hopefully all those cells, excess face oils and toxins with it.
The Lustrous cleanser will regulate your sebum and deep clean those pores, removing impurities and calming skin irritation.
Let’s not argue. I already know that when you’re suffering from acne all you want to do is reach for the thickest foundation you can find. I know that acne isn’t just something that affects the skin, it goes a lot deeper sometimes and can have a huge effect on our confidence. You know I’m going to tell you that make-up is only going to irritate your irate skin even more. That make-up clogs up your pores and can make your problem worse. Still, it’s hard not to give in and cover acne up with cosmetics. So, whilst I advise you to reject make-up altogether for a while and let your skin breathe, if you can't, then do this for me - Use make-up made from natural ingredients. Preferably a vegan make-up that has added minerals. Apply a small amount but brush or smooth it in really well for the best coverage and please, please make sure you remove it at night. Your oil cleanser will also double up as a highly effective make-up remover so they’ll be no need to reach for a chemical solution.
Consistent Skincare Routine
I feel like I say this too much but it’s really key. Your skin is like a small child and it needs TLC, routine and consistency. It’s also best to keep your skincare simple. When you have an acne outbreak and other flare-ups it is easy to think your skin needs something extra or more attention but what it actually needs is for you to enable it to heal itself. Trust in your body and give it the basics to help it along. This includes washing your face twice per day and always after exercise. It also includes using a facial oil cleanser, as mentioned above and then also an all-natural moisturiser that has no strong chemicals. If your doctor prescribes you a medical cream for your acne then that’s different, but shop-bought ‘miracle cures’ rarely work and quite often send your skin into a frenzy trying to work out what unnatural substance you’re feeding it with.
It’s also wise to avoid touching your skin too much because you may be unconsciously adding dead skin cells and dirt, even if your hands seem clean. Likewise, try to keep your hair off of your face as the natural oils in your hair can further aggravate oily skin.
Otherwise, just keep your face clean, hydrated and moist. And don’t overdo anything, even washing because this can dry out the oils in your skin and, though it feels as if they’re working against you right now, they are important and need to self-regulate again, not be eliminated.
Should You Treat Adult Acne Medically?
If you have kept your skincare routine natural and consistent for some time and see no improvement you can talk to your doctor about acne. As acne is often a hormonal reaction there may be a medical treatment option for you depending on the severity and likely cause of your acne. They may prescribe a medical cream or refer you to a dermatologist. Don’t be afraid, especially if your acne is affecting your wellbeing, to seek the support of your GP.