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Why Do Adults Get Acne And How To Clear Adult Acne?

Why Do Adults Get Acne And How To Clear Adult Acne?

Most of us are familiar with teenagers getting acne during their onset of puberty between the ages of 10 to 13, which usually lasts for five to ten years and the skin normally clears up on its own during the early 20s in most cases. Although it is quite common for acne to appear in adulthood even though it is mostly thought of as a skin condition of adolescence. Now let us look deeper into the question of why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne.


What is Acne?


Acne also called pimples is a common skin condition that is caused when oil and dead skin cells clog the hair follicles under the skin. This skin condition is most commonly found in teenagers and young adults. But then why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?


Who can get Acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?


Almost everyone gets a few pimples during their teen years. However, it is not possible to predict who will get affected by severe cases of acne. Acne during the teen years is mostly found to be severe in males. Family history also plays an important part in deciding who can get acne.


What are the different types of Acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?


Blackheads- Blackheads are clogged hair follicles that are open at the surface of the skin. The hair follicles get clogged due to excess oil and dead skin cells. They tend to appear black on the surface of the skin as the air oxidizes the oil present in the hair follicle and also due to the irregular reflection of light and not because they are dirty.

Whiteheads- Whiteheads are clogged hair follicles that remain closed at the surface of the skin and produce a white bump. This happens because the oil and skin cells prevent the clogged hair follicle from opening.

Papules- Papules are acne lesions that have become inflamed forming small red or pink bumps on the skin. Most often this type of pimple is sensitive to touching and picking or squeezing can make the inflammation worse and can lead to scarring. If a large number of papules are present it indicates moderate to severe cases of acne.

Pustules- Pustule is also a kind of inflamed pimple resembling a whitehead with a red ring around the bump. White or yellow pus usually fills the bump. Pinching or pricking the pustules can cause permanent scarring or dark spots to appear on the skin.

Nodules- Nodules are firm, large inflamed bumps that develop deep within the skin and are often very painful. Over the counter, treatments are not effective enough in clearing up nodules and hence a dermatologist should be consulted. Nodules can scar but prescription drugs are found to be effective in getting them treated.

Cysts- Cysts are lesions that are large and pus filled somewhat similar to boils. Cysts are painful just like nodules and a dermatologist should treat them as they also scar like nodules. It is also referred to as cystic acne. People who get affected by nodules and cysts are considered to have a more severe form of acne.

What are the different forms of acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?

Mild Acne 
How to know if you have mild acne?

  • You have fewer than 20 blackheads or whiteheads in total
  • Fewer than 15 inflamed bumps
  • Or fewer than 30 total lesions
  • All of the above factors indicate that you have mild acne. Mild acne can be usually treated with over the counter medicines. In order to see significant improvement in mild acne you have to be consistent with your skincare routine and results usually start to show after 8 weeks.


    Moderate Acne

    How to know if you have moderate acne?
  • If you seem to have 20 to 100 whiteheads or blackheads in total
  • Inflamed bumps are between 15 to 50
  • 30 to 125 lesions in total
  • All of the above factors indicate that you have moderate acne. Prescription medicines are usually recommended by dermatologists for the treatment of moderate acne. Even while using prescription strength medicines, it may take up to several weeks before you can see a considerable improvement in your skin’s condition and sometimes the acne may start appearing to get worse before it starts getting better.

    Severe Nodulocystic Acne

    What are the symptoms of severe Nodulocystic acne?
  • People who are affected by severe nodulocystic acne develop multiple inflamed cysts and nodules.
  • Most of the time the acne turns deep purple or red
  • Severe Nodulocystic acne is extremely prone to scarring and often leaves scars.
  • In many cases of this type of acne, a doctor may inject cortisone steroids directly into the nodules and cysts to reduce the size of the inflammation and provide some relief from the pain. Timely treatment by a dermatologist helps in minimizing the scarring due to severe nodulocystic acne.


    Acne Conglobata
    What is Acne Conglobata?

    Acne Conglobata is considered one of the most severe forms of acne. It consists of many inflamed nodules that are connected to one another under the skin. It affects the neck, chest, arms and buttock regions of the body. Acne Conglobata is prone to scarring and often leaves scars. Men are found to be affected more by this type of severe acne. Taking steroids and testosterone is sometimes responsible for causing this type of acne. Timely treatment by a dermatologist is extremely essential for Acne Conglobata.

    Acne Mechanica

    What is Acne Mechanica?

    This type of acne is caused when the skin is subjected to heat, pressure, or friction by the use of sports gear such as a helmet or baseball cap. Acne Mechanica is often referred to as sports induced acne as it is found to occur frequently in athletes. It can be prevented by using an absorbent material under sports equipment and immediately showering after an activity.

    What are the causes of Acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?

    Now let us take a deeper look at the various factors that can cause acne. Skin experts believe that one or more of the following can lead to the development of acne:-

    Sebum- Sebum is a sticky and oily substance by nature. It is produced by the sebaceous glands that occur in the middle layers of the skin near the hair follicles. Sebum consists of several types of fat molecules or lipids that help in moisturizing the skin. Human sebum is made up of triglycerides, fatty acids, wax esters and a lipid squalane. The highest concentration of sebaceous glands is found in the face, scalp and chest areas. Sebum helps in locking in the moisture and keeps the skin hydrated. It also promotes elasticity. Sebum transports fat soluble anti oxidants to the surface of the skin which protects the skin from the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Sebum is also slightly acidic by nature thereby preventing harmful pathogens such as bacteria and viruses from penetrating the skin. Sebum production varies from person to person but age, lifestyle and medications also play an important role. Oily skin in individuals is due to the overproduction of sebum. Excess sebum along with dead skin cells clogs the pores of the skin resulting in blackheads and pimples. Bacteria also gets trapped in the pores which causes inflammation. With time the blocked pores rupture spreading bacteria, sebum and dead skin cells on nearby tissue resulting in painful acne lesions.

    Bacteria- Small amounts of bacteria are found to live on the surface of the skin which is natural. Researchers have found that the balance of bacteria on the skin plays a crucial role in the development of acne. Excess production of sebum can clog the pores of the skin which creates a favorable environment for bacteria to thrive causing inflammation and acne development. The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes is considered to play a key role in the development of acne. It has been found in studies that P. acnes uses sebum as the source of energy and also by being present in the pores creates an immune response in the body that triggers inflammation.This bacterium is found in an abundance of individuals with or without acne so it cannot be considered the only causing factor of acne. An imbalance of skin bacteria may be the cause of acne. According to experts, we should target killing harmful bacteria or the beneficial bacteria should be enriched in order to maintain a healthy microbiota.

    Dead Skin Cells- Dead skin cells play a key role in causing acne. The constant process of shedding old and dead skin cells and replacing them with new and younger cells in the body is known as cell turnover. Cell turnover takes place through desquamation on an average of every 28 to 40 days. A new skin cell is born in the deepest layer of the epidermis and travels up until it reaches the uppermost layer of the skin. By the time the cell reaches this layer, it has become dry, rough and flaky and is considered a dead skin cell. New skin cells continue to arrive from beneath pushing off the dead skin cells. This process of desquamation occurs in the entire body. Our cell renewal factor which is the cell turnover rate changes throughout our life span. In people with acne, the cell turnover rate is not that efficient and the natural process of desquamation does not occur properly. Usually, an acne prone skin produces more dead skin cells than it should typically and the shedding of the dead skin cells does not happen properly due to a condition called retention hyperkeratosis. In normal skin types, the dead skin cells are constantly removed and replaced by the newly formed cells but in the case of acne prone skin types the dead skin cells get stuck within the follicles on the skin’s surface creating a clogged pore and with excess oil accumulation it results in forming a whitehead or blackhead and if there is bacteria invasion then inflamed blemishes appear. Experts suggest the regular use of exfoliants for acne prone skin as speeding up the cell turnover process improves acne. Medications are also available for acne that speed up the cell renewal process.


    What factors increase the risk of getting acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?

    The following factors may increase the risk of getting affected by acne and also explain why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne:-

    Hormones- When breakouts occur in adulthood, they are caused due to hormonal fluctuations and are called Hormonal Acne. Hormonal acne is commonly referred to as Adult Acne. This type of acne is seen in adults between the ages of 20 and 50. Hormonal acne is caused due to excess sebum production by the oil glands. Both men and women are affected by this type of acne but the cases in women are higher.

    Now let us look at the causes of hormonal acne or adult acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne:

  • Hormonal changes in women around periods or due to irregular periods
  • Hormonal changes in pregnant or lactating women
  • Hormonal changes during menopause
  • Hormonal changes due to oral contraceptives
  • Hormonal changes due to other pre existing medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome or other ovarian conditions and also conditions related to metabolism
  • Hormonal changes in men who are going through testosterone treatment
  • Hormonal changes due to side effects of certain medications such as steroids
  • Family History- You may have seen that acne sometimes runs in families. But does family history decide if someone is at an increased risk of getting affected by acne or why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne? There is no single gene that has been identified as a risk factor for getting acne but research does have proven the fact that genetics do influence your chances of getting acne. Genetics determine the effectiveness of the immune system in fighting acne causing bacterium Propionibacterium acnes which causes excess sebum production in the pores and results in breakouts and inflammation. Certain hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome are found to run in families and acne is caused as a result of it. People who had parents or siblings with adult acne are more prone to getting it themselves. Researchers have shown that heredity plays an important role in an individual to become acne resistant in adulthood. Family history also plays an important role in adolescent acne. You are even at a higher risk of getting acne if both of your parents had severe acne in adolescence or in adulthood.

    Medications- The use of certain medications can lead to acne. Drugs that cause true acne or acne like eruptions as a side effect are corticosteroids, lithium or an anticonvulsant, barbiturates, androgenic nature steroids, DHEA, and medications containing bromides or iodides. Bipolar disorder patients have been prescribed Lithium, whereas some people intake DHEA supplements for anti aging purposes, and sedatives or cough medicines contain bromides and iodides. Most of the cases of acne that have been caused due to the use of medications are not considered to be actual acne and are called Acneiform Drug Reactions. Acneiform Drug Reactions differ from regular acne in many ways and can also affect individuals with no history of true acne. In some cases which are considered exceptions, individuals are affected by true acne. Drugs that influence hormone levels are responsible for causing this. For example, when the level of the male sex hormone androgen goes up due to the intake of androgenic steroids to get bulkier and build muscles it could result in terrible cystic acne. Also for instance women who are on hormone replacement therapy may get true acne if there is testosterone present in the drug. Most of the time these people had acne in the past. Discontinuing the medications often makes the acne or acne like eruptions go away but sometimes it takes a while. Since serious medical conditions do need some specific drugs for treatment not everyone can discontinue such drugs due to their skin being affected by them. In this case, dermatologists advise the patients to consult their neurologists or psychiatrist but if the drug is supposed to stay unchanged then the best way out is to limit the effects of the acne on the skin.


    What can trigger acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?

    The following factors do not cause acne directly but can trigger acne:-

    Diet- Some studies indicate that having certain food in your diet can make your acne worse and may explain why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne. These food are:

  • Milk- Milk increases the chances of you getting affected by acne, even more, if you are consuming skimmed milk.
  • Sugar and carbs- If soda, white bread, white rice, cake, pastries, etc are part of your diet, you are at increased risk of getting breakouts. Foods that have high glycemic index trigger acne.
  • Chocolate- People who consume milk chocolates with high sugar tend to break out more than people who eat dark chocolate with little to no sugar.
  • Stress- Stress can trigger and worsen acne. Stress causes hormonal imbalance and also affects the skin’s immune system resulting in clusters of pimples. When a person is stressed the body releases cortisol which worsens the existing acne. Stress is also the answer to why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne.

    Environmental Factors- Environmental factors such as pollution and high humidity can make your acne worse.

    Being rough with your skin- If you are into the habit of squeezing or picking at your blemishes it can make you break out even more and lead to scarring as well. If you scrub your skin too hard it will also aggravate the existing acne.


    What are the therapies available for treating acne and why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne?

    Topical Therapy:- When the medication is applied topically that is directly to the skin it is known as Topical Therapy. Topical therapy consists of applying or rubbing in gels, creams or lotions. Mild acne can be treated with over the counter topical products. These products contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, resorcinol, etc. Prescription strength products such as antimicrobial and retinoid creams are effective against mild to moderate acne.

    Systemic Therapy:- When oral medication is taken for acne it is known as Systemic Therapy. It includes antibiotics such as tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline, erythromycin, etc. Systemic therapy is used to treat moderate to severe acne. In this type of therapy, the acne causing bacteria is targeted to reduce inflammation. Systemic therapy also includes the use of oral contraceptives, spironolactone and isotretinoin. Isotretinoin which is a high dose of prescription strength Vitamin A, is only used in cases of severe cystic acne or when other treatments fail. You have to be in regular touch with your dermatologist for this treatment.

    Other Acne Therapies:- When topical or systemic therapies don’t work for your acne, your dermatologist may suggest other acne therapies such as the following-

  • Steroids: Steroid injections can treat severe acne and reduce inflammation.
  • Lasers: Lasers are used to lighten and treat acne scars.
  • Chemical Peels: Chemical peels are used to lessen acne scars and give smoother skin.


    Can increasing your water intake help reduce acne?

    Water is extremely beneficial for your body as it flushes out toxins and helps in building a strong immunity. Water also keeps your body and skin hydrated by maintaining the correct oil water balance of the skin. So increasing your water intake can definitely help in reducing acne and pimples and promote clearer skin.

    Can regular exercise help in clearing acne?

    Regular exercising improves the blood flow and circulation and also wards off stress and anxiety. Exercising also maintains a healthy blood sugar level which is important to keep acne at bay and is also the answer to why do adults get acne and how to clear adult acne.

    Can a low glycemic diet help in preventing acne?

    Does fried food increase the chances of getting acne?

    Fried foods are loaded with saturated fats and trans fats which are harmful to your health. These kinds of foods are responsible for inflammation of the skin and can give you bad skin days.

    Does consuming fiber rich foods help in reducing acne?

    People who consume fiber rich foods may see an improvement in their acne condition. High fiber foods keep blood sugar levels in check and thereby help in keeping acne away.

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