The confidence crush.
If you’ve ever had acne or you know someone who has had acne, then this story may resonate with you. Or, you may find yourself in the strange and disturbing point in your life where you have begun to develop acne as an adult. You may even be in your 40s and believe that this can’t be happening to you because you left all this kind of worry behind years ago.
Adult acne can be so debilitating to a positive outlook, robbing you of the confident identity you’ve worked so hard to develop. That may sound dramatic, but if you’ve ever had acne, you know what I mean. Right?
Not all acne is the same, there is teenage acne which begins at puberty and if managed well usually is just a minor hassle for teenagers, but most of us typically grow out of it. Acne that continues for a long time passed puberty and is usually related to hormonal disruptions that can go on for many years and can be extremely upsetting and frustrating.
A peruse around the internet, and you will find a bazillion remedies. My heart goes out to those trying to sort this one out.
As this is primarily a blog for women about women’s beauty issues, I am going to tackle the hormonal acne that affects women, which can start in your teens and continue for years or it can come out of nowhere in your late 30s and early 40s.
But first, the myths around the cause of acne.
I don’t have all the answers. No one does, but I’ll attempt to bring you solutions I know will be helpful and other’s not-so-much, to save you a lot of time, heartache and money.
With all remedies and solutions come long-standing beliefs or myths. Here are a few, we need to get out-of-the-way once and for all.
- Although proper facial cleansing is vital to the health of your skin, the oil and debris that accumulates on the surface of your skin don’t cause acne. You do not, nor should you be overzealous in your cleansing in the hope of ridding yourself of acne.
- Chocolate will not cause acne. Of course, there may be other ingredients like too much sugar, or too much dairy or processed foods influencing your overall health but no single food or food group will cause adult acne.
- Skincare alone, despite what anyone tells you will not fix the problem of hormonal adult acne, it may slow it down, it may control oil flow or bacterial infection, but if your acne is hormonal? As much as the surface of your skin needs specific attention and care, your problem is coming from within.
The Dos and Don’ts.
So, let’s break it down to just a few options, this is by no means a complete list as it would be too long and a waste of time and I intend to simplify things not add to the confusion. Once you know what’s available, you can then begin to formulate a view and a plan that works for you and remember, there is rarely one solution, and you’ll need to seek the help of a medical or skin professional to formulate the best plan for YOU.
These days many, especially teenagers, after a trip to their GP or skincare specialist will be recommended Isotretinoin (Accutane). Principally this is extremely high doses of vitamin A and only available with a prescription from a doctor. There will be a long list of side effects and precautions. Although it does banish acne, for some it’s merely a short-term band-aid approach and the acne, especially if it’s due to hormonal disruptions beyond the regular teenage ups and downs, will come back and often with a vengeance.
#2 Retinoic Acid
The standard solution to acne and often prescribed by dermatologists is Retin-A, is pure Vitamin A and applied to the surface of the skin. It’s not without side effects but for many, a less potent option compared with the oral medication, Isotretinoin, which leaves the skin extremely dry and while it may eliminate acne it does not deal with the cause of adult acne. So although I am not opposed to its use, the results vary and should only be considered as part of a holistic plan.
For more on Retinoic Acid and how it works on the skin, you may like to go here: Beauty 101 – Vitamin A
Another medication worth considering is Aldactone (Spironolactone). Technically not a prescription for acne. Its primary therapeutic use is a diuretic that prevents the body from absorbing too much salt while maintaining potassium levels in the body and is often prescribed to lower high blood pressure. However, its action on the body is impressive, and it is a useful medication for the treatment of hormonal acne.
How does it work?
One of the many hormones produced by the body are a group known as androgens; they are our male hormones. However, they’re not exclusive to the male gender, both men and women secrete male hormones, but how much you secrete will be determined by your gender.
In women, there are conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or during the Peri-Menopausal years when slight fluctuations in androgens can lead to hormone imbalances. In some women, androgen secretion can create the perfect storm for adult acne.
Aldactone (spironolactone) blocks the androgen receptors in the body and prevents excessive absorption via your cells. It’s an effective solution to adult acne when the underlying cause is hormonal disruptions where there is a rise in male hormones in the female body. So, although not a cure, it certainly can break the cycle and under medical supervision can be taken indefinitely. This drug not suitable for men with acne.
Important note: Aldactone, may not suit you, or work for you, and like all medications, there are side effects you should consider, but it’s worth talking to a medical doctor about the possibilities.
#4 Chemical Peels
Chemical peels can be an excellent solution. Salicylic and mandelic acid peels go a long way in controlling any infection or inflammation on the surface of the skin. Breaking the cycle of acne or at the very least, reducing the number of breakouts you experience.
If you want to read an entire article dedicated to how chemical peels can help your adult acne, then you want to check this out: A spot of bother in your 40s.
Skincare while not a remedy by itself is essential to maintain the health of the skin. When the skin is under the stress of acne, it needs all the love and kindness you can give it! It’s one thing to suffer acne but how much worse is the aftermath of scarring and acquired sensitivity through using harsh, astringent and drying products.
One frustrating problem with some skincare brands is offering far too many promises as a cure-all for acne, and many vulnerable people will spend far too much money when it is not the solution.
But for your skincare to be part of the solution look for gentle cleansers and moisturisers adequately protecting your acid mantle and lipid barrier but not so light or full of water that the skin protection against the environment is not adequate.
Look for moisturisers with glycerine, essential fatty acids and antioxidants to support the skin while keeping it hydrated and comfortable. The most important aspect of optimal skin health is maintaining the acid mantle as it protects the skin from both external invasion, inflammation and infection.
Look for helpful support from AHA and BHA exfoliating serums to encourage cell renewal gently. DO NOT scrub your skin; this will only damage your acid mantle and make the whole problem much worse.
Any other serums recommended for you should contain, vitamin A, B3, C and E to prevent the skin from becoming weak or sensitive and create a balance that encourages the skin to heal itself.
#6 LED Light
Light Emitting Diode (LED) therapy, using blue light. LED can be a useful way to minimise infection and inflammation, with the best result when combined with other treatments and solutions. So before you rush out and buy a personal blue light mask or head to your nearest clinic, remember it’s part of the solution! LED blue light can complement other solutions to adult acne as I have discussed here today if you commit to regular treatments.
Another short-term fix. The truth is, unless a surface bacterial infection causes your acne (which it isn’t) then antibiotic medications are best kept for when you need them. Not for acne. Unfortunately, it will come back, and in the meantime, the natural and healthy bacterial environment of your gut becomes out of balance. You have enough worries, no need to add to it with an antibiotic.
Okay, a long post, but if you have acne or know someone with acne, then there are no shortcuts.
My advice, while genuine, is based on my experience with working with many individuals with adult acne over the years, but I’m not a health care professional. You should always seek out the help of a trusted medical practitioner who specialises in hormonal health.
See you next time.