If you're past your teen years and still getting acne, you're not alone.
Acne, which is thought of as mostly a teenage burden, actually strikes more than 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men over the age of 25, according to local experts.
It's no trivial problem, either. Many men and women suffer pain and scarring from adult acne, in addition to the emotional costs.
"Adult acne can be frustrating, especially when you thought that part of your life was well behind you," said Emily Aspittle, a licensed master esthetician and owner of TrueBeauty Professional Skin Care in Layton. "Many adults are wondering why they are dealing with oily skin and breakouts when they are doing everything right for their skin."
Aspittle said the main culprit, especially in women, seems to be tied to hormones, which can fluctuate at different times of life and increase oil production.
"Many factors can cause hormones levels to surge, including stress, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, birth-control pills, certain medications and certain medical conditions," she said. "Many women with adult acne may notice that it can worsen premenstrually and will appear on the chin, jawline and neck."
Normally, oil can flow out of the pore and across the skin's surface, helping to keep it moist and smooth, Aspittle said. However, when excessive oil is produced, it can become mixed with dead skin cells from the skin's surface and from poorly sloughed skin cells from the pore's lining, and with small pieces of hair debris from the hair follicle.
"All of this mixed together can clog the pathway of oil flow, resulting in blemishes and clogged pores," she said. "Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, is a type of bacteria that can grow inside an oil gland. Excess oil and dead skin cells can provide the perfect conditions for P. acnes to thrive and reproduce, causing irritation and inflammation. This is why most blemishes are red and swollen."
On the increase?
Recent epidemiological studies suggest an increase in post-adolescent acne and show that the disease is lasting longer and requiring treatment well into the mid-forties, according to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
It cites pollutions, new medications, poor diet and hormone-fed meats as possible irritants. However, the one common denominator appears to be stress, according to the article.
Jodi Frehner, master esthetician at Timeless Medical Spa and Weight Loss Center in South Ogden, agrees that stress can play a major role in the development of adult acne.
Although it's tricky, Frehner said, there are several options available to fight the condition.
"Exfoliate regularly with a professional treatment, as well as using appropriate skin-care products between treatments for home care," she said. "Exfoliation-based facials such as microdermabrasion and resurfacing chemical peels help to eliminate bacteria, minimize pores and hydrate the skin."
In addition, Frehner said, various laser-based wavelength treatments are an option as a more aggressive treatment for more severe grades of acne.
But be careful. You can overdo it, causing even more trouble for your skin, said Frehner and Aspittle.
"Avoid ingredients that are overly harsh and irritating, such as alcohol, menthol, peppermint, camphor eucalyptus, lemon and grapefruit oils," Aspittle said.
Overwashing the face can also cause further trouble.
"It strips the skin of its natural moisturizing factor and can cause disruption in pH levels and only confuses the skin more," Frehner said.
And picking that zit? Avoid the temptation, Aspittle said.
"A hands-off approach is the best policy for your skin. It's tempting to want to pop or pick at your problems, but doing so can spread infection and worsen acne," she said. "Constantly picking and reinjuring the skin can also cause scarring."
In addition to professional cleansing and exfoliating, there are several over-the-counter and prescription products that can help treat adult acne.
"Skin-care products containing salicylic acid can help exfoliate and function as an anti-inflammatory," Aspittle said. "Benzyl peroxide can help in the fight against blemishes by killing bacteria."
Frehner said topical retinols, which contain vitamin A, speed up dead skin cell turnover for prevention of future breakouts.
Antibiotics and the medication Accutane can also help with acne, but they come with unwanted side effects, so trying to treat the problem in other ways may be your best solution, said both experts.