Fight adult blemishes with these tips

Acne: It’s not just for teenagers. From a simple single pimple to large outbreaks, statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology show as many as 50 million adult Americans suffer from some form of acne each year.

Dr. Carolyn Jacob, a board-certified dermatologist and the director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, says there are many factors that contribute to why people continue to get acne through adulthood.

“Biologically, there’s no reason to stop having acne. It’s a myth that people grow out of it after high school,” Jacob says. “You don’t really ever lose oil production throughout your life. It starts at puberty and just keeps going.”

The primary causes for acne are similar for both adults and teens. Our bodies produce oils, created by the foods we eat and the fluctuation of hormones.

As teens, hormone production is at its peak and typically diets are at their worst. Jacob says much of the diet-produced oil comes from sugar consumption. All that oil becomes food for the bacteria that lead to blemishes and breakouts. The pores in the skin become plugged as the bacteria multiply and eventually cause lesions (pimples).

As we age, the hormones associated with puberty level off, then start to decrease. However, stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are constantly fluctuating in our bodies and can be triggers to acne outbreaks.

For women going through menopause, the reduction in estrogen leaves the body with more testosterone. When that happens, Jacob says acne can actually get worse.

“There are postmenopausal women who have a different form of acne from what they might have had as a teenager,” Jacob says. “Teenagers tend to be more greasy or oily with lots of blackheads and whiteheads. In adult female acne, women tend to get deeper, nodular and painful lesions that never come to a head.”

Treatment options


BE PATIENT: It takes time for OTC products and regular cleaning to relieve acne outbreaks. But in many cases, acne is a treatable condition.

SKIN IRRITATION: Make sure the products you use aren’t further irritating the skin. Should a rash develop, contact a dermatologist.

SALICYLIC ACID: This popular ingredient in cleansers used to help unclog pores can also be irritating to the skin.

BENZOYL PEROXIDE: Products with this ingredient help kill the bacteria that lead to inflammation and are particularly useful on the chest and back. Make sure the product is dry before putting on clothes to avoid staining garments.


There are many OTC products, and many come in different strengths. An over concentration or strength of medicine could lead to skin sensitivity. When in doubt, consult a dermatologist.

MEDICATION SIDE EFFECTS: Acne can be a side effect of some prescription medications. If you suspect a medication is triggering acne or making an existing condition worse, talk with the physician who prescribed it.