Acne usually starts in the teen years as hormones shift and puberty begins. Many women scoot through this phase of life without any acne, only to get acne later in their late 20s, 30s, or even 40s! Not fair. Not how you thought it should be.
Why am I getting zits for the first time at this age?! Adult acne is certainly frustrating and often embarrassing to deal with, but you’re definitely NOT alone.
Let’s squeeze out the truth about this all-too-common skin issue and get to the bottom of why you’re still seeing those pesky pimples pop up — even at YOUR age!
What is Adult Acne, and what causes it?
Acne is the most common skin condition in the US, affecting up to 50 million Americans. In fact, “Acne occurring in adults is increasing, affecting up to 15 percent of women.” It can strike at any time and can have different causes as time goes on.
Adult Acne is just a term used when breakouts occur during the adult years. “Acne” is the term used to describe prominent blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and cysts.
While acne can affect any part of the skin, it more typically found on the face and neck, but can also occur on shoulders, back, chest, under the breasts and on the upper arms.
However, there are TWO MAJOR DIFFERENCES between acne in the adult years and the kind you experienced as a teen:
- Adult acne is usually on the lower half of the face (chin & jaw line), while teen acne is typically on the upper half (forehead, nose & cheeks)
- Adult acne is also deeper and can appear as ‘under the skin’ pimples (cysts), which usually can’t be drained.
What is the root cause here? Experiencing acne in adulthood is usually attributed to a few key culprits:
- After starting or stopping hormonal birth control methods
- Hormonal shifts like around a woman’s period (‘cyclical acne’)
- During pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause
- Medical condition involving hormonal imbalances, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
One’s first dealings with acne may be in adulthood as well, having escaped it all together as a teenager! This “adult-onset acne” is most common in postmenopausal women due to pronounced hormonal shifts.
While the link between diet and acne has been somewhat controversial over the years, more recent scientific evidence suggests that high-carbohydrate diets may increase your risk of developing acne.
This may be best explained by the elevation effect that consuming excess refined carbs has on blood sugars and the hormone insulin.
Another food group with may contribute to acne prone skin is dairy. Dairy is defined as any food that is derived from cow, goat, or sheep dairy milk. This includes: cheese, yogurt, milk, butter, ice cream, and kefir. Oh, and don’t forget foods that have dairy as in ingredient- like in baked goods for example. Research has shown a link between dairy consumption and acne. You’ll need to give it up for at least a month or so to “test” the effect of a dairy free nutrition plan on your skin’s tendency to breakouts.
With any dietary modification trial, don’t expect the change to happen overnight. Skin can take a few months to see improvements. If you do see changes right away- bonus!
Stress and Inflammation
Stress can cause a release of inflammatory hormones and a domino effect of hormonal shifts which can worsen acne.
Think about that huge pimple that invariably makes its appearance before a big date, wedding day, or before a presentation at work. This is because stress is stress to the body- even “good” stress, like anticipating an important event, can trigger a breakout.
Stress also increases the severity of breakouts by making pore cells thicker, stickier and therefore, more clogged. The results are more inflamed, red and painful pimples.
“Researchers have found a relationship between stress and acne flare-ups. In response to stress, our bodies produce more androgens. These hormones stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, which can lead to acne. This explains why acne can be an ongoing problem when we find ourselves under constant stress.” – American Academy of Dermatoloy
Other factors that can also be to blame for Adult Acne, include:
- Family history/genetic predisposition
- Gut & digestive issues- learn about leaky gut and how treating the gut can change your skin
- Hair & skin products that have comedogenic ingredients
- Change of environment and weather
- Side effects from certain medications
Treatment for Adult Acne
While there are many, many conventional treatments available including topicals, antibiotics, and other prescription medications. I ‘ve found that there is usually no one magic bullet, and I take a comprehensive natural whole-body approach to acne treatment.
We start with strategies to manage and control new outbreaks, do appropriate tests to determine any root causes (like hormones!), address gut health, and modify your nutrition to be best for skin health.
We use the “Band-Aid” approach to get your skin on the right track to healing while we work on the other stuff like hormones, digestion, and nutrition. “Band-Aids” are things like topical treatments or medications/supplements that suppress symptoms. These usually work for a period of time to control the symptoms and can be very helpful and necessary! BUT-that’s where natural treatment really shines. We help you figure out why you are getting acne in the first place and with time, you can control your own skin and toss out the temporary Bain-Aid fixes.
Here’s a note from a happy client who started getting acne in her 30s:
“My skin issues seem to be completely gone and I am so grateful to you. One visit with you and my problem was gone. I really can’t thank you enough.”