Nine causes of adult acne

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Blame hormones for adult acne

Apart from rosacea, the most common concern for my clients is adult acne. Blame hormones for those deep spots cropping up along the jawline and chin the week before your period: estrogen levels drop, leaving bad boy testosterone in charge. (Testosterone gets a kick out of stimulating your poor oil glands).

No wonder dead skin cells get stuck in the oil and block the tiny, tight pores along the jawline. Don’t even bother trying to squeeze them!

Adult skin marks more easily

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

Cell renewal slows down with age, so the red post-spot ‘staining’ takes much longer to fade (also, the skin is more sensitive before a period, so it marks more readily). 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 skin’s surface, which is fine on 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 bacteria-killing ingredient, whilst effective, is very drying and can irritate thin, mature skin. (Teenage spot creams contain up to 10%). Remember that 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 that unclogs the pores and has anti-ageing 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 barrier-loving natural oils, leaving their skin dry, dull and inflamed; ironically, it produces more oil to compensate.
Overwashing also disrupts the skin’s acidic microbiome, leaving your skin vulnerable to spot-causing bacteria. Try a low pH salicylic acid cleanser the week before your period to dissolve dead skin inside the pore.

Is your skin dehydrated as well?

I noticed that their skin was also dehydrated and out of balance. It was a vicious circle – teenage acne products dehydrated their skin; then the parched skin cells got stuck in the oil and clogged up the pores.

Manage your adult acne with diet

Stress, hormones, and diet stimulate the oil glands and inflame the skin. Thin your sticky sebum by following an anti-inflammatory diet: no meat, processed grains, alcohol, bad fats or sugar. The GI (Glycaemic Index) diet helped control my sugar cravings, which worsened before my period.

A bowl of chickpeas
Eating chickpeas can balance your hormones

Avoid rich anti-aging creams

When combination skin starts to dry out with age, many reach for rich anti-ageing 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-ageing 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 drinking lots of water to speed up the process.

Manage your stress levels

Stress is almost as damaging for your skin as the sun – it stimulates the oil glands, inflaming 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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