It is very common for me to see a young adult women sitting in my office saying that she always had clear skin as a teen but now she is breaking out! This is adult acne, and it can occur in people who never had acne as a teen or in those who have struggled with their acne since they were teens.
Causes of adult acne
The causes of adult acne are no different than the causes of typical teenage acne and include an increased oil production, clumping of the skin cells to stick together and plug pores, and overgrowth of a bacteria on the skin. However, treating acne in adults can be very different.
Adult acne treatment
Adults with acne generally have skin that gets irritated more easily than their teenage counterparts. We often have to choose treatment programs that have less potential for irritation. One of the most common irritants is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is available over-the-counter, but it can be irritating in strengths of 5-10%. A 2.5% concentration is a better choice since studies show that it is equally as effective as higher strengths but not nearly as irritating.
There are a host of other creams, gels, and lotions that can be used, and they can be selected to help treat other skin problems that may exist in addition to the acne. For example, azelaic acid can treat both acne and hyperpigmentation. Tretinoin treats both acne and wrinkles.
Chemical peels, oral medications, and lasers can also be extremely helpful. Photodynamic therapy is a type of laser treatment that uses a medication called Levulan to temporarily cripple the oil glands causing the acne. When combined with an IPL, photodynamic therapy can help improve the tone and texture of the skin in addition to clearing acne.
A cure for adult acne?
We currently do not have a cure for acne, adult or otherwise. Accutane is about as close as we get. While it is technically not a cure, many people never see their acne recur after treatment.
Acne scars from adult acne
Scars can occur from adult or adolescent acne. While it is far easier to prevent a scar than to treat one, we have a variety of tools and techniques to treat acne scars.