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Adult Acne: Causes and Treatments

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I am an adult! Why am I still battling acne? Adult acne can be frustrating and embarrassing but more than half of adults suffer from acne at some point in their adulthood. Since it is so common, what can be done about it?

Acne usually occurs when oil and dead skin cells get clogged in a pore and mix with bacteria. Adult acne can be caused by stress, hormones, birth control or bad cosmetics. This is why women are more likely than men to suffer from it. First, take a close look at your make-up. If you suffer from acne outbreaks avoid make-up that is oil based. Choose products that are labeled noncomedogenic. Certain medical conditions and prescription medications can also cause acne. If you have other symptoms of a hormone imbalance or if your acne began when you started a new medication, consult your physician.

Adult acne often manifests itself differently than teenage acne. Adult breakouts are often mild or moderate and do not usually result in scarring. Blackheads and whiteheads are less common. Adult facial acne is usually seen on the chin, lower cheek and below the jaw line rather than all over the face as is common in adolescents.

As an adult with acne, you might choose to visit your dermatologist. A dermatologist can diagnose the condition on your face as acne or a very similar appearing skin condition called rosacea. Rosacea often appears with acne and can be caused by some acne medications. However, it is a separate condition and needs to be treated differently. A dermatologist can prescribe an effective topical or oral treatment for both acne and rosacea.

If you are confident that your skin condition is adult acne, you might chose to visit your local drugstore and try some of the over the counter treatments available. There are many kinds available and it is worth doing a little research either by talking to your friends or searching the internet to find one that is worth trying.

No matter which acne treatment you try first, be sure to wash your face twice a day with a cleanser that contains salicylic acid. Also, use moisturizer and sunscreen daily for good healthy skin.

Adult acne can be embarrassing. It is not a life threatening medical condition but it may have significant ramifications. Suffers of adult acne may have low self esteem and lack the self confidence to succeed. With all of the products available to treat adult acne, there is no reason to suffer. Visit your favorite drugstore or dermatologist soon and get the help you deserve.

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I have adult acne and I am 51 year old woman. I hate that I still get a cyst about every six weeks. I know that may not seem like much but after the healing I have flat red spot for months.

I have been on accutane twice, antibiotics and many other treatments.

I know use azeliac acid ing. in the morning, and retin A every other evening. I get smooth beam below my nose and sides of chin every 6 months or so. I had smooth beam 4 days ago and I blistered ugh. This is a first for blistering for me. My next one I will stop retin A and all acne treatments until after. I will also use ice post the smooth beam. The doc told me well it is just superficial and you will not scar from it. I still dislike that kind of recovery for non ablative laser

Any thoughts onthe smooth beam.

Thanks all.

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Hello! I wanted to share my story on adult acne. It's been an issue for me for the past year and I'm 27. I want to list all possible causes and what I am doing to heal in case it is useful for others.

My history with acne -- I never had bad acne as a teen. I started birth control (ortho tri cyclen) when I was 14 (!) In college when I was 20, I broke up with a long time boyfriend and wanted to go off the pill so I could rid myself of synthetic hormones and live naturally, however this led to me breaking out all over my chin and jawline with cystic acne. I had never seen anything like it. After a lot of research, I realized going off birth control triggered this and I was desperate to stop it, so I went back on birth control. It took another 6 months (after trying different birth controls, one being Yaz, which was awful) before my skin calmed. It was a horrible, confidence damaging experience. Especially because none of my friends were dealing with acne and it was so sudden. It was a nightmare really.

Skipping ahead to age 27, after enjoying years of mostly clear skin and thinking that experience was behind me… I was now living in NYC and in my second long term relationship. My job had become very stressful and I was unhappy in my relationship, to the point where I was holding a lot in and dealing with massive anxiety. My skin was OK but I wanted a more even complexion and had read about apple cider vinegar. I was also dealing with some hormonal cysts here and there, so I read a supplement DIM might help with hormonal levels. I started doing both and within a month, I had a massive (MASSIVE) cystic acne breakout. And it didn't stop. April, May, June went by and I could not get a hold of my skin. It was unbelievable and very devastating. With all I had going on in my life, it really pushed me over the edge. I looked at apple cider vinegar and DIM as the triggers, however now looking back, I think stress had A LOT to do with it. I also had not changed or stopped my birth control pill (due to fear of what happened the last time) so I was very confused what would cause this "sudden onset of adult acne". It was so troubling. Not to mention I became depressed, more anxious, insecure and it was affecting my professional and personal life.

When I went to my gyno they tested my hormones levels - all came back normal. Even though the acne I had was by the book hormonal. My gyno AND derm both recommended spironolactone to me. They thought in combination with the BC this could really help. I began taking 50 mg a day (wasn't happy about having to take yet another Rx) and after 2 months, I saw noticeable improvement. 4 months, a more noticeable improvement. My face was no longer covered in the cystic acne, and I was only dealing with 1-4 pimples at one time. I was very happy about this. However, I did notice, whenever my birth control pill tapered off to a different level of hormone, I would get a pimple. So now, well into my use of Spironolactone, I decided to kick the pill. I went down to taking 3/4 a pill, then 1/2 (which very much irritated my skin) so then I just went off completely. I was so fearful since my experience in college, but my acne has not dramatically worsened. I think it is thanks to the Spironolactone.

My ultimate goal is to be completely clear so that I can feel confident about myself again. It still does affect my life because I still do deal with some large cystic pimples and it's very embarrassing. My doctor has suggested upping my spiro dosage, so some days I take 75 mg. In the long run though, I of course would like to not have to depend on this medication. That's my ultimate goal. Asides from the spiro, I think the following are also really helping my body from the INSIDE OUT. Which I think it most important with this type of acne, vs any topical cream you put on:

  1. Every morning I take a probiotic and cod liver oil. (I don't think my body processes and detoxifies the way it should and the probiotic helps facilitate this)
  2. Every day I take a good multi with zinc (Designs for Health) and vitamin D.
  3. Every night I now take "plant enzymes" and "pancreatic enzymes" to support liver health
  4. Drink a lot of water
  5. Avoid (now trying…) dairy and gluten (excess of pasta/pizza/bagels)
  6. Meditation (10 minutes a few times a week, if I can)
  7. Exercise
  8. Laughter
  9. *I know this is a topical, but my favorite face lotion is Aveeno Ultra Calming. Its amazing and doesn't clog pores. Also has sunscreen in it.

​One of my personal important findings on liver function, which I think can be the root of a lot of health problems and possibly my acne:

The liver can be protected by using bioidentical hormones, by not taking excessive levels of hormones, by ensuring that the liver has adequate nutrients available for processing hormones, and by avoiding other chemicals that compete for liver function. Healthy liver function is the underpinning of hormone balance.


What I have realized through all of this thought is I had several contributing factors that may have caused my acne (ALL BEING INTERNAL ISSUES, except for the apple cider vinegar):

  1. Messing with hormonal levels (changing BC, or being on BC for 14 years, not having healthy liver function, taking the DIM supplement, etc)
  2. Prolonged use of birth control pill (14 years)
  3. Severe stress and anxiety (literally "holding things in" and not breathing)
  4. Overdrinking on the weekend (I've noticed flare ups afterwards)
  5. Using "fad" skin treatments, like the apple cider vinegar

My ultimate goal is to be off any Rx and I think the only real way to heal my skin completely is achieving healthy organ function and taking care of my body from the inside, out. I also think that the acne probably isn't all my fault, and that genetics do play a role. However, I have found it is a signal that my body needs more care internally.

I really hope this helps anyone who might be struggling with this. Even though it may seem like a physical thing, it is a very devastating experience and can affect every single aspect of your life. People who do not have to deal with a skin issue like acne are incredibly fortunate. So do not make yourself feel guilty or vain about wanting clear skin. You're not alone and I believe you can get better, especially if you view the issue from the inside, out.

*Last bit - I am going to a holistic doctor to see what she recommends for supporting liver function and hormonal issues. Will keep all posted.

My best,


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