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Acne: Causes, Treatment, and Misconceptions

Understanding acne and just how to treat it

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Acne: Causes, Treatment, and Misconceptions
Written byAmelia CranstounContent Editor
Start your 2 minute skin quiz today and one of our aestheticians will create a personalised skincare routine for you!Take the skin quiz

Acne is often associated with teenage years, but it can affect individuals of any age. Adult acne is a common skin condition that can be frustrating and distressing for those experiencing it. 

Why Do We Get Adult Acne? 

Adult acne can be attributed to a combination of factors, including hormonal fluctuations, genetics, and lifestyle choices. Hormonal imbalances can trigger sebaceous gland activity, leading to increased oil production and clogged pores. Stress, poor diet, certain medications, and exposure to environmental pollutants can also contribute to the development of adult acne.

When Do Most People Get Adult Acne? 

Adult acne can usually emerge at any point after age 25 and persist well into adulthood. The exact timing varies from person to person, but it is estimated that around 20% of adults experience acne. Some individuals may experience acne for the first time during adulthood, while others may have a recurrence of acne after years of clear skin.

How is Acne Different for Adults?

Adult acne tends to differ from adolescent acne in several ways. Firstly, the distribution of lesions may vary. While teenagers typically experience acne on the forehead, nose, and chin (the "T-zone"), adults often experience breakouts on the lower face, jawline, and neck. Adult acne is also more likely to present as inflammatory acne, characterised by red, tender bumps, whereas younger individuals may have more non-inflammatory acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads.

Main Triggers of Adult Acne

Identifying and managing triggers can help prevent or minimize acne flare-ups. Some common triggers include:

  1. Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause can contribute to adult acne. Maintaining a healthy hormonal balance through proper nutrition, stress management, and hormonal therapies (if necessary) can help manage acne.
  2. Stress: Chronic stress can disrupt hormone levels, leading to increased sebum production and inflammation. Incorporate stress-management techniques such as exercise, meditation, and sufficient sleep into your routine.
  3. Diet: Certain foods, such as high-glycemic-index foods (sugary and processed), dairy products, and foods rich in saturated fats, have been associated with acne. Adopting a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can support overall skin health.
  4. Skincare and Makeup Products: Some products can clog pores or irritate the skin, exacerbating acne. Look for non-comedogenic and oil-free options. Avoid heavy, pore-clogging makeup and remove all traces before bed.

How to Treat Adult Acne

  1. Establish a Consistent Skincare Routine: Cleanse your skin twice daily using a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to remove dirt, excess oil, and impurities without stripping the skin. Follow up with a moisturiser suitable for acne-prone skin to maintain hydration.
  2. Incorporate Topical Treatments: Look for over-the-counter products containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids. These can help unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and promote skin cell turnover.
  3. Seek Professional Advice: It’s never too early to consider professional advice. Our free online video consultation service is quick, and cost-effective and puts you in front of a qualified aesthetician who can review your skin and advise an effective routine. As a member of Renude, you can upload skin photos to your private skin diary to track progress and stay in touch with your aesthetician for ongoing support at no additional cost.
  4. Avoid Over-Exfoliation: While exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells, excessive scrubbing or using harsh exfoliants can aggravate the skin and potentially worsen acne. Stick to gentle exfoliation once or twice a week.
  5. Protect Your Skin: Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Sun exposure can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can make acne marks more prominent.

Ingredients to Look Out for When Treating Adult Acne

When selecting skincare products for adult acne, keep an eye out for these beneficial ingredients:

a. Salicylic Acid: This beta-hydroxy acid exfoliates the skin, unclogs pores, and reduces inflammation.

b. Benzoyl Peroxide: It kills acne-causing bacteria, reduces excess oil production, and helps prevent clogged pores.

c. Retinoids: Derived from vitamin A, retinoids promote cell turnover, reduce inflammation, and prevent clogged pores.

d. Niacinamide: This ingredient helps regulate sebum production, reduces inflammation, and improves the skin's barrier function.

Myth-Busting Common Misconceptions about Adult Acne

a. Myth: Acne is caused by poor hygiene. 

Fact: Acne is primarily influenced by hormonal factors and genetics. While proper hygiene is important, excessive washing or scrubbing can aggravate the skin.

b. Myth: Acne is only a cosmetic concern. 

Fact: Acne can have a significant impact on an individual's self-esteem and emotional well-being. Seeking appropriate treatment is important for both physical and mental health.

c. Myth: Acne will go away on its own, so treatment is unnecessary. 

Fact: While some acne may resolve without treatment, others may persist or worsen. Early intervention and effective treatment can help prevent scarring and minimise long-term effects.

What Not to Do When You Have Acne Flare-Ups

a. Avoid Picking or Squeezing: Picking at acne lesions can introduce bacteria, cause inflammation, and lead to scarring. Hands should be kept away from the face to prevent additional irritation.

b. Don't Overload on Products: Using too many acne treatments simultaneously can irritate the skin and worsen acne. Introduce new products one at a time and observe how your skin responds.

c. Stay Away from Harsh Ingredients: Harsh cleansers, alcohol-based toners, and abrasive scrubs can strip the skin's natural oils and disrupt the skin barrier, leading to increased oil production and inflammation.

D. Don’t let it stop you: Whether your acne is temporary or more stubborn to treatment, you should never let it stop you from accepting yourself and having fun. Our Renude aestheticians will support you along your skincare journey, but there are many places to turn to for further support or motivation!  We are loving skin ambassadors like @spottylittlething and @jessyoga who truly embrace and love the skin they're in.

If you would like to seek professional advice for acne treatment, you can start our skin quiz today 

Amelia CranstounContent Editor
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Amelia CranstounContent Editor
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