What is acne?

Acne is caused when pores in our skin become blocked. This is often due to an excess production of the skin’s natural oil, known as sebum, produced by the sebaceous glands. This oil combines with dead skin cells and bacteria on the surface and forms a clog. This blocked pore is what we know to be a spot.

Isn’t it just adolescents that suffer from acne?

Acne is affecting an increasing number of adults and so it can no longer be considered as an adolescent beauty bother. Adult acne is the term scientific studies use to describe anyone over the age of 25, still suffering from acne. Adult acne falls into one of two categories; if it persists from adolescence, it is referred to as ‘persistence acne’ but if it occurs for the first time during adulthood, it is known as ‘late onset acne’.

What causes adult acne?

There are a variety of different factors that can cause acne, and like it was during your teenage years, the main problem is excess sebum and dead skin cells clogging pores! Sorry ladies, but we have to tell you that it seems adult acne is only really a cosmetic concern for women as it is very rare than men experience late onset acne!

Fluctuating hormones (particularly androgens) and hormone imbalances can play havoc with our skin and are one of the major causes of outbreaks. We are sure all women will be well aware that our hormones tend to fluctuate before our menstrual cycle, during pregnancy and around menopause. As we like to have some evidence to back up what we say, a recent study found that around 80% of women experience unwanted outbreaks before they menstruate, as this is when our progesterone levels peak and progesterone is the problem behind excess oil production.

Stress has also been reported as a factor triggering adult acne. The prevalence of adult acne has increased in recent years, which correlates with the increased stressors of modern living, suggesting that perhaps the two could be connected. The link between stress and acne outbreaks can be explained by the increase in neuropeptides in the sebaceous glands as a result of stress, which can then over stimulate sebum production.

Recently, some studies have pointed the finger at smoking as a cause of adult acne onset, as it was noted that smokers had more severe and more frequent acne than non-smokers. One particular study in 2009 suggested that tobacco is a large contributing factor in non-inflammatory spots, as nicotine can cause an increase in sebum production! So, if that’s not another motivation to put the cigarettes down…

Genetics can also have a role in adult acne (finally something you can blame on your parents), so some women may have a genetic predisposition for this beauty problem.

Don’t despair; there is something you can do about it!

 If you think you suffer from adult acne then the best thing to do is to seek advice from a dermatologist, as they will know the best course of action.

Standard treatment protocol for adult acne includes topical retinoids, topical and oral antimicrobials and there is the option of adding hormonal therapies for those who feel they need it, as hormone fluctuations are one of the major causes of acne. Oral hormonal treatments works on the logic that if the hormonal imbalances are at the root of the problem, then correcting hormones levels should reduce acne and leave you with clear skin again. There are two types of hormones given – the first are androgen receptor blockers that prevent androgens (the hormones we mentioned earlier) from acting on the oil glands and over stimulating sebum production. The second are oral contraceptives (oestrogen and progesterone) that work to suppress androgens being produced from the ovaries.

In terms of over the counter products, topical retinoids (we have loads of information on retinoids on our blog) are the collective name for compounds derived from Vitamin A. They can reduce keratinisation (the process of skin cells migrating towards the skins surface) and by doing so, reduce the chance of dead cells clogging pores and leading to those pesky spots. Anti-microbial agents such as Benzoyl Peroxide (we have lots of products containing this ingredient on the blog) work by damaging the bacterial proteins and are commonly found in spot treatments.

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