Adult Acne: Why Me?!

Acne can been defined as a chronic skin disorder typified by pimples, blackheads, cysts, and infected abscesses ... in other words, not very much fun!  While once thought of as purely a teenage problem, the number of adults seeking help for their adult acne has increased substantially in the last few years.  This could be due to either an increase in the number of those suffering from acne, or an increase in those now willing to seek treatment.  Regardless, acne is no longer something expected to disappear once adulthood is attained.

Experts believe that acne is a condition of the sebaceous glands, which are found nearly everywhere on the human body.  These glands secrete a substance called sebum, which is a mixture of fats and debris from dead cells.  In healthy skin, sebum is brought to the surface along a hair shaft or through an open pore, where it lubricates and protects the hair and skin.  Too much sebum can lead to blocked pores; too little sebum can lead to dry, unhealthy skin.  For those who suffer from acne caused by an excess of sebum, this is often a direct result of rising levels of androgenic hormones

Acne is thought to occur when excess sebum production or abnormal retention of skin cells blocks a pore or hair follicle in the skin, trapping sebum and natural skin bacteria inside.  A small, newly-blocked pore appears as a whitehead.  A larger blocked pore is often called a blackhead.  When whiteheads and blackheads form, their may be no initial irritation and they may be visible only upon close inspection.  With time, however, the skin bacteria inside the pore reproduce and react with the sebum inside that blocked pore, irritating the surrounding cells.  It is this irritation that causes redness and inflammation on the skin's surface. 

Adult acne can be just as problematic as teenage acne, and sometimes even more so.  With increasing age, the skin changes: collagen production decreases, and the skin becomes thinner and loses its elasticity, making it less able to adapt and recover from disturbances and irritations.  For this reason, persistent adult acne can leave deeper and more visible scars than acne on their younger counterparts.  

Treatment for mild-to-moderate adult acne focuses on a three-step skin care regimen.  The first step is a gentle exfoliant that removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, opening up the pores and revealing bacteria trapped within.  The second step is a toner that neutralizes the skin's pH and removes excess oil and bacteria.  The final step is a non-comodegenic moisturizer to prevent over-drying.  Some skin care regimens also recommend the use of a repairing product after the toner and before moisturizing the skin, and of course, over-the-counter products and prescribed acne medication can also be used in acne treatment. 

Whether in one’s teenage or adult years, acne can be a debilitating disease.  Statistics suggest that at least 15 million people in the United States alone suffer from acne, and that a considerable percentage of those are adults.  Adult acne used to be a source of embarrassment to many people who believed it was only a teenage disorder.  Fortunately this misconception has been corrected and there are now several acne treatments that were created solely for adults, so don't be afraid to go to your doctor and ask for help!