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I'm a Dermatologist and Here Are Ways to Get Rid of Adult Acne Forever

Skin care experts reveals ways to help stop adult acne

Acne is thought of as a teenage problem, but in reality acne happens in adulthood and it's a common issue. Acne can persist well into your 50s in some cases and although it can be a challenge to deal with, there are treatments that help eliminate and manage the problem. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explain what causes adult acne, who is at risk and methods that help cure it.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Adults Get Acne

Young woman outdoors checking her face in a round powder compact mirror.

Dr. Emmanuel Loucas, Director of SINY in New York, Assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai hospital New York with practices in Manhattan & Palm Beach explains, "Multiple factors contribute to adult acne. To ably the most important cause is genetics. There is usually an underlying genetic predisposition in adults with acne. Add in emotional and/or physical stressors on your body which result in a release of various hormones, and you get acne. Sometimes external factors like poor hygiene can contribute to acne as well. Acne occurs when the hair follicle unit, which contains glands, secrete sebum that mixes with bacteria resulting in inflammation and blockage of the pores."  

Dr. Kellie Reed, MD, board-certified dermatologist, Westlake Dermatology, Austin shares, "The cause of acne in adults is multifactorial, often due to genetics, sebum production, hormones, and bacteria, clogged pores due to "sticky" skin cells, stress, hair and skin care products, or even a medication side effect. Diet may play a role in some individuals. Those at higher risk for developing acne may have endocrine disorders such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)."

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Why Women Get Adult Acne More

surprised woman looking in bathroom mirror at acne on cheek

"Women tend to more affected by adult acne than men due to fluctuating hormone levels around their periods, pregnancy, menopause, or starting or stopping a birth control," Dr. Reed explains. 

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Wash Your Face Twice a Day

Woman splashing face with water above bathroom sink

Dr. Loucas recommends, "Regular washing with  a mild cleanser  twice a day is important. This helps to prevent blocking of the pores and build up of the inflammatory products. The use of astringents, exfoliants, and strong acne washes, usually are not necessary and often result in drying and irritation of the skin."

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Use Retinol Based Creams

Prescription Tretinoin Cream 0.05% for acne and anti aging.

According to Dr. Loucas, "The use of retinol or retinoid based creams can help keep your skin surface healthy and shedding properly. This helps by keeping your skin shedding normally. Adapalene is a retinoid product sold over the counter that can be used to treat your acne. The drawback to using retinols and retinoids is they can dry your skin, so start using them in small amounts every other day and if tolerated, then increase their use daily along with a moisturizer.  Other products that can help your acne include topical and oral antibiotics, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxides, and other topical and oral hormone based therapies.  These often require a visit to your dermatologists to get prescriptions but can be very beneficial."

Dr. Reed adds, "Topical Creams with retinoids helps with "sticky" skin cells that can lead to clogged pores. Retinoids help with skin turnover and help prevent the formation of comedones (precursor to inflammatory acne). There are various topical retinoids, but a meta-analysis of 5 multicenter randomized investigator-blinded trials involving 900 patients confirmed that total lesion counts reduced by 53% with tretinoin 0.05% gel and 57% with adapalene 0.1% gel. (Cunliffe WJ, Poncet M, Loesche C.  et al.  A comparison of the efficacy and tolerability of adapalene 0.1% gel vs tretinoin 0.025% gel in patients with acne vulgaris: a meta analysis of five randomized trials. All topical retinoids effectively reduce the number of comedones and inflammatory lesions in the range of 40% to 70%." 

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Lights and Lasers

Female doctor in latex gloves performing the laser skin resurfacing on the young patient face

Dr. Reed shares, "Various lights and lasers can reduce acne, but rarely do these treatments alone help clear acne. Blue light acne treatment is a specific treatment that uses a specific wavelength of light to kill C. acnes bacteria on the skin. The bacteria in acne release porphyrins which when absorbing light of certain wavelengths will induce free radical damage, thereby destroying the bacteria."

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senior woman putting on the cream

Dr. Reed explains, "Isotretinoin, an oral systemic retinoid medication, reduces sebum production, reduces sebaceous gland size, differentiation and proliferation, and normalizes follicular epithelial desquamation. A chart review of 179 patients who had received 1 course of isotretinoin revealed that at the 3-year follow up, 35% had no recurrence; 16% required topical therapy; 27% required the use of oral antibiotics, and 23% required more isotretinoin."

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Avoid Dairy and Whey Products

Danielle Gronich, Skincare Expert and Clinical Esthetician suggest, "Avoid eating Dairy and Whey Protein. Dairy is loaded with growth hormones that mimic hormonal acne around the mouth and chin. Whey is a concentrated version of dairy and is found in keto & protein products — even those marketed as 'healthy.' This is highly important in clearing adult acne."

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Start Exfoliating with a Mandelic Acid Serum

Vitamin C

Gronich suggests to start exfoliating with a mandelic acid serum at night and reveals, "Mandelic acid dissolves the clogs in your skin and helps to fade acne scars. We recommend one with other beneficial ingredients like Vitamin C."

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Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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