I never had acne when I was a teenager. Why am I getting it now?
A: You are not alone. In my years as a pharmacist, I have personally met women in their 30s, 40s and even their 50s who struggle with adult acne. Some of them are like you — suddenly plagued by a mid-life skin crisis. Others had acne in their teens, but are wondering why a product that used to work for them now seems useless.
Every one’s skin is unique and there is no universal cause for adult acne. However, there are common factors that could lead to a breakout.
Behind the scenes of a zit
It might help to understand how a pimple develops. Your skin releases oils from your pores to protect your skin and keep it lubricated. However, the pores can be blocked with dirt and dead skin cells, and bacteria can infect the plugged follicles causing the skin around it to become red and swell.
So, if you have adult acne, ask yourself: why is my skin producing more oil, and what is clogging my pores?
Teens are more prone to pimples because of a sudden surge of androgen, a hormone that affects your skin’s oil production. However, you may be experiencing hormonal fluctuations even today: when you get your monthly period, during pregnancy, peri-menopause and menopause, or when you start or discontinue birth control pills.
A high-glycemic diet
Studies published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition link acne to a diet that’s high in refined sugars and carbohydrates (so that’s not just chocolate, but white breads, noodles, and rice).
However, the diet-acne connection is hotly debated even among dermatologists and skin scientists. Those who say there’s a link explain that the spike of the hormone insulin also triggers androgen; others say the evidence of dietary changes aren’t strong enough to actually cause a breakout.
When it comes to skin health and diet, it’s best to take everything in moderation!
Your makeup products
I personally believe that we should keep makeup to a minimum. However, I do understand how some people would feel self-conscious about adult acne and try to cover it with concealer and foundation. My advice is to see makeup as a temporary solution that shouldn’t worsen the problem. Look for and invest in a good anti-acne skin routine. Use makeup only when you need to, and look for formulas that are non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and thoroughly remove it at the end of the day with a good makeup remover.
If you are having a flare up or a worsening of your acne condition, it is best to stop all cosmetic products until the situation improves.
It can be tempting to squeeze a pimple to make it quickly go away, but you may be worsening and prolonging your acne problem. The bacteria in the pus can enter and infect surrounding pores, or you force the plug deeper into the skin and worsen the infection and inflammation. You also risk acne scars. Keep your hands off and let your acne products do the work.
Adult acne can be frustrating, especially when it feels so unexpected. Many of my older customers have expressed your sentiments: “Why am I only getting this now? This is so unfair — I have to worry about wrinkles and acne?” The good news is that even though it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause behind your breakout, you will be able to find a good treatment. Skin science has made wonderful advancements since our college years, and your midlife skin crisis – like all the problems we’ve faced – shall pass
Mei Hui - Managing Director/Pharmacist