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Why adults have acne?

5 ways to self-treat your skin at home


By Josh Sim, Aesthetic and Better Aging Specialist

12/04/2023



The idea that acne is just for teenagers is wrong, and can affect adults just as much, if not more than their younger counterparts. One reason for adult acne can be the fluctuations in hormone levels that occur, especially in adult women. Hormonal imbalances can occur during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, or when starting or stopping birth control pills. These changes can increase the production of sebum, which can clog pores and cause acne breakouts, as well as make you more prone to deep cystic acne, which is often triggered by hormonal changes.


Stress is another common factor for adult acne, with the daily pressures of full work days and familial responsibilities meaning the body produces more cortisol, a hormone that can increase oil production and cause inflammation in the skin. This can then lead to acne breakouts, especially in people who are already prone to acne.


Your genetics can play a role in whether you are more likely to develop acne as an adult, and if your parents or siblings have a history of acne, you may be more likely to develop it too.


On top of this, certain medications that you are more likely to take as an adult can also cause acne as a side effect. These include corticosteroids, lithium, and some anticonvulsants and antidepressants.


When it comes to acne treatments at home, it's important to consider your skin type. If you have dry skin, you may want to avoid products that contain alcohol or fragrance as these can further dry out your skin. Look for products with gentle, moisturising ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin instead. If you have sensitive skin, avoid harsh ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and opt for gentle, fragrance-free products. If you have combination skin, you may need to use different products on different parts of your face to address different concerns, such as more drying products on your t-zone, and more hydration products on the cheeks. For oily skin, look for products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help control oil production.


5 ways to self-treat your skin at home:


Washing your face twice a day - Keeping your skin clean can help prevent acne breakouts as well as reduce the risk of further inflammation or infection. I recommend using a gentle cleanser to remove excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells from your face, but to avoid harsh scrubbing, as this can irritate your skin and make acne worse.


Using over-the-counter acne products - Products containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or alpha-hydroxy acids can help reduce acne and can be found in many products you can use in your daily skincare routine. Benzoyl peroxide helps kill bacteria on the skin and unclog pores, salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells, while alpha-hydroxy acids help remove excess oil from the skin's surface. I suggest starting with a low concentration of these ingredients and gradually increasing usage or concentration as tolerated.


Applying spot treatments - Spot treatments contain concentrated ingredients that can help reduce inflammation and redness in individual pimples. Look for ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, tea tree oil, or sulphur which you can apply directly to problem areas overnight to reveal calmer, less irritated skin in the morning.


Using non-comedogenic moisturisers and makeup - Moisturising is important, even if you have acne-prone skin. Look for oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturisers that won't clog pores. The same goes for makeup - look for products that are labelled as non-comedogenic, oil-free, or water-based.


Trying natural remedies - Some natural remedies can help reduce acne, but keep in mind that there isn't a lot of scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. Tea tree oil, honey, and aloe vera are all thought to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that may help reduce acne, so are good to apply as a face mask from time to time to help soothe skin. Use around a tablespoon of these ingredients on the face after washing, leaving on for 10-15 minutes before washing away with warm water.


It's important to remember that not all acne treatments work for everyone, and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you. It's also important to be patient - it can take several weeks or even months to see improvement in your acne. If your acne is severe or doesn't respond to at-home treatments, consider seeing a dermatologist for additional treatment options.

If you have severe acne or acne that doesn't respond to at-home treatments, it's best to see a dermatologist. They can prescribe medications or recommend in-office treatments like chemical peels or laser therapy that can penetrate deep into the skin to fight inflammation, blockages, and redness. I also recommend speaking to a dermatologist if you have acne scars or dark spots from previous breakouts as they will be able to offer treatments like microneedling or chemical peels to improve the appearance of your skin by removing texture and discolouration. A dermatologist can also help you develop a personalised skincare routine based on your skin type and specific concerns, advising you on which products or ingredients to use or avoid, as well as steps you should add or remove to your routine, such as chemical exfoliation, or using retinol.


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