About AOA

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Managing Adult Acne

Managing Adult Acne

Most of us probably think of acne as a troublesome challenge during our teen years, but a sizable percentage of adult women are affected as well. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of adult women are affected with adult acne compared to men of the same age. While the percentages drop over the decades, as many as 12 percent of women over the age of 40 are affected.

Acne is caused when a body’s sebaceous glands produce excess sebum, an oily, waxy substance that lubricates and waterproofs the skin. Too much sebum can cause skin cells that your body sheds to become abnormally sticky. These sticky cells clog up pores and hair follicles and attract bacteria.

Hormonal fluctuations, specifically androgens, are the main cause of acne flare-ups, however, there’s no single treatment that works for everyone. Treating acne successfully means tailoring the approach to each patient’s specific type of acne: mild, medium or severe.

Treatment Factors to Consider

If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, you should talk with your AOA physician before beginning any kind of oral or topical acne medication.

Adult women are more likely to have dry skin and some women will develop a combination of acne and rosacea. Rosacea is another skin condition characterized by inflammation and redness that can make topical acne medications harder to tolerate.

Some women find taking oral contraceptives can help clear acne, but it’s important to avoid this kind of treatment if you have a history of breast cancer; heart attack, stroke or blood clots; uncontrolled high blood pressure, or abnormal vaginal bleeding. Again, talk with your AOA healthcare provider to determine if this is a good treatment for you.

Tips to Keep Acne Flare-ups at Bay:

  • Use non-comedogenic or sensitive skin produces to minimize irritation
  • Use a mild facial cleanser twice daily
  • Avoid any cleaners with scrubbing particles, or abrasives.
  • Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer daily
  • If you start treatment with topical retinoids, take it slow in the beginning. Use the medication no more than three times per week until your skin becomes accustomed to it. Increase the frequency of use slowly until you can use it every night
  • Do not pick, squeeze or pop acne lesions. You want to minimize the trauma to the skin to reduce the risk of scarring and secondary bacterial infections.

The key to fighting adult acne is patience and consistency. None of the therapies work overnight, so it’s important not to become discouraged. It may take as long as 10 weeks to see the full effects of any treatment, and in many cases, long-term maintenance therapy is needed to keep the acne in check.

Learn more about adult acne: