Ask an expert: How can I deal with my adult acne?

17th Apr 18 | Lifestyle

Many of us think acne only affects young people, but nearly half of women aged 21 to 30 suffer with this common condition.

Acne skin

There are plenty of things you probably miss from your younger years: the sense of freedom, unlimited time spent with your friends and the total lack of responsibility. One thing you’ll definitely be glad to see the back of? The smattering of red and painful facial pimples that often strikes during adolescence.

Count yourself lucky if you weren’t plagued with blemishes throughout your school days, but many of us learn the hard way that spots don’t magically disappear when you enter your 20s. Research from the International Dermal Institute indicates that acne is rising in adulthood, with women most likely to be affected. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that acne affects nearly half of all women aged 21 to 30, a quarter of women aged 31 to 40, and 12% of women aged 41 to 50.

Anyone that has experienced adult acne will tell you it is a painful condition to manage, both physically and psychologically. So how best can you tackle blemishes and breakouts in your later years? We asked experts to weigh in…

What is adult acne and what are the symptoms?

“The most common cause of acne is dead skin cells blocking hair follicles and allowing bacteria to build up,” says Dr Faye Christopherson, medical officer at Push Doctor. “What separates adult acne from the spots you get as a teenager is that they tend to be focused on the lower half of the face, particularly the jawline. The blemishes are often larger and redder, compared with the blackheads and whiteheads of your younger years.”

Why exactly can it occur later in life?

“Studies suggest that 80% of cases affect women, a trend that has been attributed to hormonal changes,” says Christopherson. “It can also be a side effect of certain medications.”

What possible treatments are available and what are the most effective?

“Crucially, adult acne shouldn’t be treated in the same way as teenage acne. As adult acne results in different sorts of blemishes, you’ll need to ask your doctor about the best prescription medication,” stresses Christopherson.

“Options include a cream containing vitamin A, which will unclog your follicles, anti-inflammatories or oral contraceptives to regulate your hormonal balance. Your doctor will choose the best treatment based on the type and severity of your symptoms.”

Could my diet be contributing to my adult acne?

“Certain food types can cause a spike in your blood sugar, which prompts your body to release insulin,” says Will Hawkins, nutritionist at Push Doctor. “Excess insulin in your blood can trigger your oil glands and increase your risk of acne.

“Foods that can do this include high-glycaemic carbs such as white pasta, white rice, white bread and sugar. Other studies have connected adult acne with components of the so-called ‘Western diet’, such as high-glycaemic carbs, dairy and trans fats.”

What food types should I consume to avoid breakouts? 

“To lower your risk, try and eat more low-glycaemic carbs, such as whole grains, oats, sweet potato, legumes, lentils, peas, fruit and non-starchy vegetables,” says Hawkins. “These will keep your insulin levels steady and lower your risk of triggering an acne outbreak.

“There are also plenty of other nutrients that can lower your chances of acne. For example, zinc has been shown to keep your skin healthy. It’s found in lamb, beef, chicken, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate and spinach, among other things.

A collection of vegetables
Consider your diet (Thinkstock/PA)

“Vitamins A and E are useful in the production of collagen, which is good for your skin health. These two vitamins also help damaged skin heal quicker and reduce the chances of permanent scarring as a result of acne. Vitamin A can be found in orange fruit and veg, such as carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, melon and mango.

“Vitamin E, on the other hand, is found in particularly high amounts in seeds and dark leafy greens. Many fruits and vegetables are also powerful antioxidants, which can reduce cell damage and keep your skin clear and healthy.”

© Press Association 2018