Nine causes of adult acne

Blame hormones for adult acne

Apart from rosacea, the most common concern for both myself and for my clients is adult acne. Blame hormones for the deep spots that crop up all along the jawline and chin the week before your period. 

Oestrogen levels drop and this leaves testosterone, which stimulates the oil glands, in charge.

To make matters worse, dead skin cells can’t fall off quite as readily. This blockage of oil and dead skin is stuck behind the small, tight pores along the jawline and can’t come to the surface. Don’t even bother trying to squeeze them!

Adult skin marks more easily

Adult skin tends to be less oily with fewer blackheads than teenage skin, but individual spots tend to be more angry and tender. 

Cell renewal is so much slower in adult skin, so spots leave red marks behind which take an age to fade. (Also the skin is more sensitive before a period so marks more easily). A vitamin C serum will help to fade them more quickly.

Step away from teenage spot cream

Most spot creams work by drying out the surface of the skin, which is fine on an oily teenage skin, but useless on adult acne, where the blockage is deeper down in the follicle.

Doctors often prescribe Duac which contains 5% benzoyl peroxide. This excellent ingredient kills bacteria, but is so drying that it can irritate a thin, mature skin. (Teenage spot creams contain up to 10%). However, hormones, stress and diet are responsible for adult acne, not just bacteria. Only use Duac on problem areas and keep your skin well moisturised.

A better option is Differin, a vitamin A derivative which unclogs the pores but also has anti-aging properties – killing two birds with one stone!

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Avoid harsh cleansers

Both my teenage and adult acne clients make the mistake of over washing their skin. Foaming, alkaline cleansers strip their skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry, dull and inflamed; it then ironically produces more oil to compensate.

Over washing also destroys the skin’s acidic barrier so it can’t protect your skin from spot causing  bacteria! Instead, cleanse with a low pH cleanser the week before your period, followed by chemical exfoliation. Salicylic acid (Bha) gets rid of dead skin from inside the pore, glycolic (Aha) from outside the pore.

Is your skin dehydrated as well?

I noticed that the skin of my adult acne clients was also dehydrated and out of balance. It was a vicious circle – they had all been using products for an oily skin which dehydrated their skin.

These dehydrated skin cells then got stuck in the oil and clogged up the pores.

Manage your adult acne with diet

Stress, hormones, and diet all stimulate the oil glands and inflame the skin.  Thin your sebum (oil) by following an anti-inflammatory diet: no meat, processed grains, alcohol, or bad fats and sugar.

Also try eating phytoestrogens such as chickpeas to balance your hormones.

The GI (Glycaemic Index) diet helped control my own sugar cravings which got so much worse before my period.

A bowl of chickpeas
Eating chickpeas can balance your hormones

Avoid rich anti-aging creams

When a combination skin starts to dry out a little with age, many reach for rich anti-aging creams, but these can block the pores.

One client had very inconsistent skin with both oily and dry patches which was prone to the odd spot. We solved the problem by layering two light hydrating products (a serum and day/night gel) rather than one thick anti-aging one.

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Did you know that smoking blocks your pores?

Not many people realise that smoking lowers testosterone levels. The testosterone levels of one of my clients rose sky high when he managed to quit smoking after fifteen years.

A burnt down cigarette

It seemed so unfair when he started to experience ‘quit zits’, when the body purges itself of toxins.

I recommended that he drank lots of water to speed up the process.

I also suggested that he cut down on cow’s dairy which helped me control my own adult acne.

Manage your stress levels

Stress is almost as damaging for your skin as the sun – it stimulates the oil glands which then inflame your skin. So you have the perfect excuse to indulge in regular deep cleansing facials! 

You get to relax whilst your therapist keeps an eye on your skin.

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