Adult acne can be crushing. Just when you think you've bypassed the blackheads, under-the-skin blinders and angry pus-filled clusters of your teenage years, here they are rearing their head (quite literally) at a time when you're supposed to have everything together. So what's happening?
"It is definitely a misconception that you only get spots in your teens," London-based consultant dermatologist, Dr Justine Kluk, explains. "Around 10-15% of women develop acne for the first time, or continue to suffer with it, well beyond their teenage years, and adult acne appears to be on the rise." While Dr Kluk mentions it is possible to get the same type of blemishes as adults that we had when we were teens, women in their 20s, 30s and 40s tend to suffer more with breakouts on the lower third of their face. "The sides of our cheeks and places like our neck and chin often bear the brunt," Dr Kluk expands, which also explains those painful jawline spots.
From stress to hormones, there are lots of factors which can contribute to acne flare-ups in adulthood, as Dr Kluk explains. "Genes play an important role. We know that a strong family history of acne and onset of acne at an early age can predict a more severe or persistent course. Hormones can also cause acne to flare up, which is why many women have increased breakouts around the time of their period. As well as this, underlying medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS, affecting approximately 8% of women of reproductive age) increase the risk of acne and women may be tested for this if there are other symptoms to suggest its presence, for example, carrying extra weight, thinning of scalp hair, excess body hair and infrequent periods."
According to Dr Kluk, things such as stress, long-wearing, pore-clogging makeup and an inappropriate skincare product selection are factors, too. For this reason, it's best to choose non-comedogenic products, as they are less likely to cause blockages.
From skincare to medication, here's everything Dr Kluk prescribed one R29 staffer for "comedonal (small, flesh-coloured bumps), inflammatory (red and irritated) and nodular (often large and painful) acne" on her chin and lower face.
NB. What worked wonders in this instance might not work for you, as everyone's skin concerns are different. Therefore, it's best to visit your GP or a dermatologist for advice and a routine suited to your skin specifically.
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