Acne can be upsetting at any age. But adult acne can be extra painful, especially when you feel like the only grown-up still hunting down products to treat zits.
“Adolescents are expected to get acne and they can bond at that age since many have the same problem,” Dr. Jenn Mann, former acne sufferer and author of The Relationship Fix: Dr. Jenn’s 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication, Connection & Intimacy. “Adult acne, on the other hand, is not something that everybody experiences, making people feel particularly alone.”
At work and in relationships, where first impressions are everything, it’s especially tough for adults battling acne. “The face is the first thing people notice,” adds Dr. Mann. “You expect to see acne on a teen, but it can be even more jarring on an adult, making someone feel especially alone.”
So Why Won’t The Breakouts Quit?
Hormones, stress and cosmetics are all common triggers of adult acne, says Dr. Neal Schultz, a dermatologist based in New York City.
“I see a lot of adult patients with breakouts on the lower third of face, jawline and upper neck, which is a sign of hormonal acne,” Dr. Shultz notes. “It will tend to change with a woman’s menstrual cycle.”
The connection? When the hormone progesterone increases, the facial oil glands produce more sebum, which can cause acne. For adults, stress levels also increase with pressure from work, family and social commitments.
“More and more adult acne in women is because of elevated stress levels,” adds Dr. Schultz. “Stress makes the adrenal gland produce cortisol and a little testosterone slips out causing women to break out more.”
In addition, women tend to use more makeup as they age. “If the products contain oil, that could cause clogging,” cautions Dr. Schultz. If you are prone to breakouts, try using skin-care products labeled “oil-free,” “oil-controlling,” “non-comedogenic,” or “water-based.”
In some cases, hormonal acne will need to be treated from the inside, notes Dr. Schultz. “This involves a regimen of antibiotics, spironolactone, Accutane or birth control pills to help rebalance,” he says.
If you have questions about the causes and severity of your adult acne, consult a doctor before trying over-the-counter products. The right dermatologist will help guide your acne journey.