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Facts Vs. Fallacies: Adult Acne

Posted by Dr. Ruth Shields on Sat, Sep 27, 2014 @ 09:30 AM


facts and fallacies adult acneAcne is a very common skin condition, so much so that dealing with it during the teenage years is practically a given for everyone. However, while most acne sufferers clear the condition as they reach their early 20's, for a certain percentage of people it will persist well into adulthood. Once we have left the adolescent years far behind us, the condition is referred to as adult acne, and there is lots of misinformation floating around about this troublesome and annoying skin problem. Here we will try to clear the air a bit by going over some of the facts and fallacies about adult acne.

Adult Acne Facts

  • Excessive skin oil production causes adult acne – Overactive sebaceous glands do contribute to adult acne. Sebaceous glands are tiny glands in the skin that produce sebum, the natural skin oil that helps seal moisture into the skin to maintain proper hydration levels.

  • Blocked pores cause adult acne – It is true that blocked pores are a big contributor to the development of acne outbreaks. How it happens is as follows: Dead skin cells, made sticky by excess sebum, clog pores, creating a hospitable environment for P. acnes bacteria to grow and reproduce. The combination of these three factors triggers an inflammatory response by the body, resulting in acne breakouts.

  • Hormones can trigger acne breakouts in adults – Certain hormones have been shown to trigger an increase in the production of skin oil, contributing to acne. Among these are stress hormones, male and female sex hormones and insulin, and rapid changes in levels of any of them can trigger breakouts.

  • Adult acne has a genetic component – Acne-prone skin does tend to run in families, especially the tendency towards overactive sebaceous glands.

Adult Acne Fallacies

  • Adult acne is caused by a poor diet – Common fallacies about a relationship between diet and adult acne abound. Among these are the idea that eating oily food causes acne. Fact is, the secretion of skin oil is controlled by hormones, so there is no evidence that the oil you eat ends up on your face. Other common diet-acne fallacies include claims that chocolate, sugar and dairy products cause acne – connections that, despite many studies on diet and acne, have yet to be proven. That said, there is some limited evidence that good, balanced nutrition can optimize skin health and reduce outbreaks, as can increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids and reducing consumption of foods with a high glycemic index – since they can trigger surges in insulin secretion.

  • People with acne just aren't washing enough – Fact is, acne isn't caused by poor hygiene and over-washing can actually make it worse. Washing away excess oil is important to preventing outbreaks, but doing so more than twice daily generally isn't recommended. Stripping away too much natural skin oil can stimulate even more oil production as the sebaceous glands attempt to compensate for the artificial dryness that aggressive cleansing can cause in the skin's outermost layers.  

  • Adult acne is just like adolescent acne – While the basic mechanisms behind the development of acne lesions are largely the same no matter your age, there are significant differences in the skin of teens and that of adults. Adult skin is thinner and tends to be dryer, factors that can make products that work well in teens too harsh for acne treatment in adults. Adults are generally best off seeing a skin care professional for effective acne treatment that is kinder and gentler to their skin than products found in their local drugstore, since most of those are formulated for teens.

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Tags: adult acne