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Adult acne explained: Experts weigh in on over-the-counter solutions and best treatments

LaylaBird/iStockBy Jacqueline Laurean Yates, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many of us have been looking to learn more about adult acne and the best treatments.

Whether you are dealing with maskne, which is caused by prolonged face mask wear, pandemic-related stress or you simply haven’t had the ability to access dermatologists as quickly as you used to, these are all valid reasons for why more adults are experiencing acne breakouts.

Experts agree that there’s long been a misconception that only teenagers are affected by acne. However, the skin condition can actually be experienced by people of all ages.

“All acne begins as a clogged pore, which is often filled with dead skin cells, sebum and sometimes bacteria,” dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology, Dr. Caroline Robinson told GMA.

“Hormonal fluctuations related to menstrual cycles and menopause can lead to increase sebum production and make women, in particular, more susceptible to acne as they get wiser,” she said.

Dr. Caroline Chang, dermatologist and founder of Rhode Island Dermatology Institute pointed out to GMA that most adults dealing with acne didn’t deal with it during their teen years. She also highlighted the importance of treating it as its own separate diagnosis, because the causes differ.

She shared that three common causes of adult acne include:


Hormonal cause (in women)

Hormonal imbalances throughout different phases of a woman’s life can lead to acne breakouts. Women can get breakouts around their period, during pregnancy, or during perimenopause or menopause. It is also possible to get breakouts when starting or stopping birth control pills. This type of acne is usually seen on the chin or around the jawline.

Stress
Stress causes an increase in androgen hormones, which stimulate increased oil production and inflammation in the skin. This type of acne can be seen anywhere on the face.

Rosacea
Rosacea can cause pimple-like bumps called “acne rosacea.” This type of acne is usually seen on the cheeks, nose, chin and wherever there is background redness, such as broken capillaries, that indicate a background of rosacea.

When you have adult acne, it’s also important to be mindful that though we are going through unprecedented times, there are specific ingredients that can be found in over-the-counter products that don’t require a prescription.

“Because adult acne is related more to hormones and inflammation, don’t reach for traditional acne products that work to clear out superficial pores,” Chang advises. “These can be irritating or drying to the skin and also don’t address the root concern.”

Top ingredients to look for when treating adult acne, according to experts:

Topical retinols: Topical retinol and prescription retinoids are important active ingredients in the treatment and prevention of acne. They work by removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to help unclog pores. T

Salicylic acid:
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that works by making the skin cells themselves less sticky. This encourages exfoliation and unclogs pores. Salicylic acid works best for comedonal acne, also known as whiteheads and blackheads.

Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide is an anti-microbial ingredient that helps remove excess oil and bacteria from the skin to improve the appearance of acne especially inflammatory acne that creates red or raised bumps.

Niacinamide and saw palmetto: These ingredients are best for combatting androgen signals that cause both hormonal and stress-induced acne.

Sulfur-based: Sulfur-based products work best for calming breakout caused by acne-related rosacea.

Robinson and Chang’s top OTC treatment products for adult acne:

Black Opal Blemish Control Bar – It’s a great over-the-counter option for acne because of its exfoliating and pore-unclogging ingredients such as salicylic acid. Because the bar also incorporates nourishing ingredients, it leaves the skin feeling clean and never stripped.

PCA Skin BPO 5% Cleanser – It’s a 5% benzoyl peroxide cleanser formulated with aloe and other calming ingredients to both treat acne and the irritation commonly associated with it.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid for Acne – It contains adapalene, a prescription-strength retinoid, that is now available over the counter and helps treat new and existing acne.

Younique You-ology brightening mask – It has niacinamide (vitamin B3) and Kakadu plum (vitamin C) both of which have strong anti-inflammatory properties that can help calm and prevent inflammatory acne bumps from surfacing.

Hero Mighty Patch Original –
These patches are great because they are gentle but effective in preventing you from picking, popping or squeezing an inflamed bump, giving it time to heal on its own.

Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Mask – This is a good soothing mask for rosacea flare-ups, and this one has 10% sulfur along with aloe vera to calm the skin.

If you continue to experience adult acne breakouts after using OTC treatments, it’s highly advised to make arrangements to visit a dermatologist, as prescription-strength medication may be needed.

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