So you have adult acne. Yikes.
Your parents say the teenage years are hard because, well, you’re afflicted with angst, immaturity, peer pressure, self-delusion, and, of course, those insuppressible rebellious instincts. And though we nod sagely in our twenties, in seemingly wholehearted agreement, in the depths of our soul – we know.
We’re glad to leave the terrible teens because it also means we’re bidding goodbye to frizzy hair, braces, and that god-awful acne we braved through like damned warriors. So, when your teenage nemesis, acne, happens to make a comeback – it’s like the universe betrayed you. This was not what life promised.
But life’s unfair. La-di-da. We get it. You can always, however, take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. According to a study published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, a whopping 54% of women over 25 years of age still struggle with breakouts (1).
So, what’s next? Your go-to, trusty face wash from 10 years ago is just not going to cut it anymore. With age, our skin starts getting dryer; hence, you may need to start looking out for milder and gentler skincare products. You may also have to tailor your regime in accordance with the root cause of your acne. Here are 5 common reasons why your acne is back, plus tips to reclaim your skin:
1. Way Too Much Stress
We all have a love-hate relationship with stress. The right amount of pressure is a productivity elixir. But once stress gets overwhelming, that’s when things get messy – like your skin.
Research shows that stress definitely has a physical and very visible impact upon our bodies. Once cortisol (read: stress hormone) levels rise, our bodies start synthesizing more androgens (read: male sex hormones), which (surprise, surprise!) ain’t good news. Androgens stimulate the hair follicles and oil glands in our skin, thereby producing acne. So, don’t stress about your skin flaring up – cause then you will! Oh, the irony.
Fight Back: Combat all the wretched oil with cleansing wipes for sensitive skin before you wash your face. You can also take the natural route by applying neem leaves paste on the affected region overnight. Since stress is the root problem, try exercising every day. You don’t need to turn into Mary Kom, just a simple set of jumping jacks is enough to flood you with serotonin and dopamine (read: happy hormones).
2. Suffering From PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition where a woman is afflicted with an irregular menstrual cycle plus high testosterone production. PCOS is a much-overlooked cause for adult acne, and it happens to affect more than 10 million women in India alone. (2). Many women can unwittingly struggle with PCOS for years before they are finally diagnosed with the condition. If you notice other symptoms such as irregular periods, excess hair or weight gain, then it’s best if you set up a meeting with your doctor.
Fight Back: If you’re suspected of having PCOS, your doctor may conduct an ultrasound to check for cysts (read: fluid filled sacs) on your ovaries or alternatively perform a blood test. Once confirmed, your doctor may prescribe you birth control or anti-androgen medication to get your PCOS under control.
3. Perimenopause, Recent Delivery Or Imminent Period
Any fluctuations in hormone levels can lead to an increase in skin oil production. This clogs up your pores, allowing bacteria to nest and grow, thereby producing inflammation and ultimately pimples. Your hormones will fluctuate if you’ve recently given birth, are experiencing perimenopause or if your period is due soon.
Fight Back: Invest in a good oil-busting cleanser that incorporates salicylic acid yet doesn’t contain any moisture-killing benzyl peroxide.
4. Your Pores Have Gotten Bigger
Everyone knows of the three ‘S’s that are brutal to the skin: Stress, smoking, and sun damage. Long-term exposure can potentially break down the collagen in your skin, causing your pores to gape wide open in welcome to oil and dirt. Then comes the clogging, which is an inevitable breeding ground for bacteria.
Fight Back: Look out for retinol-based skin care products that can restore the collagen in your skin, which, in turn, can reduce fine lines and tighten pores.
5. Consuming The Wrong Dairy Products
It’s not the grease in your food that is responsible for your greasy face. However, some foods can actually exacerbate any existing acne. Many studies have discovered a link between pimples and dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk (3), (4). One 2006 study conducted by Harvard University reported that girls who consumed 2 glasses of milk per day were found to possess a 20% greater risk of developing acne than those who consumed only 1 glass per week. It is hypothesized that this may be due to the hormones present in dairy.
Fight Back: Introducing more hormones into your system cause your oil glands to go into the dreaded overdrive, enlarge your pores, and produce blemishes. Prevent this with retinol-based products to tighten pores. Also, consider reviewing your dairy consumption.
Acne doesn’t have to shred your self-esteem as an adult like it did when you were a teen. You’re older, stronger, and wiser now. Fight back.