Clearing up adult acne

Many youngsters develop acne during adolescence. Acne often disappears by the time adolescents graduate high school, but for some people, acne lingers into adulthood.

The American Academy of Dermatology says adults can get acne, which may persist as adults reach their 30s, 40s or 50s. Some people even develop acne for the first time as adults, a condition known as adult-onset acne. Although both men and women can develop acne, women tend to get adult acne more often than men.

Adult acne can be particularly frustrating for adults who had acne as children. Understanding what’s behind the blemishes can help people get the treatment they need to banish breakouts.

• Stress: Stress may contribute to adult acne. When stressed, the body releases certain hormones, most notably cortisol, to address the problem. Skin experts say that testosterone can accompany cortisol, which can drive oil glands to produce more oil. Stress can lead to more oily skin, which increases the likelihood of breakouts. Learning how to reduce stress can lead to clearer skin.

• Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormones are normal for women. Estrogen and progesterone levels vary depending on the menstrual cycle. The Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology says that acne is prevalent before one’s menstrual cycle, and can also occur during menopause when hormones are in flux again. If acne is problematic, women can speak with their doctors about hormone therapy or birth control pills to see if either option can alleviate the hormone fluctuations that contribute to acne.

• Family history: Genes also may be to blame for adult acne, as some people may have a genetic predisposition to acne.

• Medication: Acne may be a side effect of certain medications. If medicine is triggering breakouts, women can discuss potential alternatives with their physicians.

• Sugar: Some evidence suggests that sugar can contribute to acne by raising insulin levels, which then triggers oil-releasing male hormones. Stick to foods that do not trigger a sugar (and insulin) spike. Australian researchers found that people who followed a low-glycemic index diet (which is low in refined carbohydrates like those found in white bread) had a 22 percent decrease in acne lesions, compared with a control group that ate more high-GI foods.

• Salt: It’s not the greasy fries that cause acne, but it very well may be the salt on those fries. Some doctors suspect that sodium can cause issues with the skin because the iodine found in table salt and seafood can build up and make acne worse.

If these options do not work, speak with a dermatologist about cleansing regimens and topical treatments that can help reduce acne breakouts.