We are all familiar with acne – a chronic skin condition that results in unsightly whiteheads, blackheads and pimples popping up on areas including our face, chest, back and shoulders.
And it isn’t just an issue that teenagers going through puberty face. Adults are just as susceptible to acne flareups; although women tend to experience it more than men. In fact, one study revealed that 85% of women and just 15% of men experience adult acne!
To be more precise, adult acne is defined as acne symptoms appearing after the age of 25. It can happen to those who had acne as a teenager or those experiencing it for the first; otherwise known as adult-onset acne.
Starting from puberty, our sebaceous glands increase in size and begin to secrete more sebum, with the most sebum being secreted around the ages of 15 – 35 years old. While pimples used to appear on the T-zone when you were in high school, adult acne most commonly appears on the lower half of the face.
A quick recap on acne
Acne vulgaris can be broken down into 4 main categories: comedonal, inflammatory, nodular and hormonal. It may sound very technical and confusing at first glance, but what is important to note is that all acne is a result of these conditions:
- Excess sebum production
- Clogged pores
- Presence and build-up of acne-causing bacteria (P.acnes)
At the core of acne is a clogged pore that is caused by a mixture of excess sebum productive and dead skin cells forming a plug in the follicle. The type of acne varies depending on its severity, ranging from non-inflammatory and mild (whiteheads and blackheads) or inflammatory and severe acne (papules, pustules, nodules and cystic lesions).
Although adult acne does not typically pose a serious health issue, it is nonetheless a distressing problem that results in 40% of those facing adult acne having a mental health condition and a lower quality of life.
One thing is for sure: acne is a clear sign of imbalance deep within the body. Here are the 3 biggest causes of adult acne.
Genetics play a large role in many aspects of our life including acne.
One particular study found that if both of your parents had acne, the chances of you experiencing severe acne at an early age is higher. Studies also showed that you are likely to have adult acne if one of both of your parents had the condition.
To be more specific, you are 4 times more likely to get acne if a first-degree relative has it!
Despite not being able to rewrite our genetic code, acne is still very much a treatable condition. Not to mention, many other causes could be the reason for your breakout and understanding its source is already half the battle won.
Androgens are hormones responsible for causing the sebaceous glands to become enlarged and produce more sebum. It is the reason why so many boys and girls experience acne during puberty, and also one of the top causes of adult acne.
The sebaceous glands are particularly sensitive to hormones, and as we grow into adults, hormonal changes can still happen – this is why women are more likely to see adult acne due to more fluctuations happening throughout their lifetime.
Hormonal changes are the cause of adult acne in over 40% of women and often occur around periods such as menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.
A more severe condition that appears in women is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a health problem that comes with other symptoms such as weight gain, excessive body hair and the formation of cysts inside the ovary.
Having PCOS requires a proper medical assessment and treatment plan to manage it as it affects the metabolism, appearance and causes fertility issues in patients.
Given that hormonal acne is fueled by internal processes that can’t be resolved using basic, over-the-counter medications, interventions from a doctor is key to start hormonal therapy in conjunction with acne treatment as soon as possible.
#3: Lifestyle factors
Lifestyle habits like eating a diet rich in dairy and carbohydrates could be causing your breakout!
Studies have indicated that chocolate can be guilty of making acne worse, and there are also studies showing that stress has a huge impact on worsening existing acne due to a rise in cortisol levels – which eventually leads to more sebum production.
Other lifestyle factors include taking certain medications such as corticosteroids and testosterone which increases androgens in the body. Using the wrong products for your skin type, popping your pimples and smoking could all also add up to a full-fledged breakout.
Now that it is required to wear a face mask before heading out, many people have also reported an increase in acne breakouts, largely due to something known as acne mechanica, or acne that is triggered by heat, friction or pressure on the skin. In combination with the stress brought about by the pandemic, this has led to the perfect breeding environment for the proliferation of bacteria that leads to acne.
If you were to dig a little deeper, you will find that these seemingly insignificant lifestyle factors are causing your acne because they trigger one or more of the conditions required for acne to exist.
Treating Adult Acne
There is a myriad of treatments available to those suffering from adult acne, but not all of them are effective.
The first-line of therapy is often topical treatments, and the most common treatments patients will come across are retinoids, antibiotics, salicylic acid, spironolactone and isotretinoin.
Important to note that although isotretinoin is considered to be one of the most effective acne treatments, it carries potential side effects such as an increased risk of depression and suicide and severe birth defects in pregnant ladies. This is why it continues to be the last resort that is kept for the most severe cases of acne and requires a doctor to closely monitor and track your progress throughout.
Majority of treatments come with a list of side effects which may or may not make it less attractive as a treatment option suitable for certain patients such as pregnant ladies and those with sensitive skin. They might also lose its effects once treatment has ceased, which adds to the difficulty of treating acne.
The best way to treat adult acne is to use a combination treatment approach that is customized to each individual. This is why seeing a dermatologist is essential if you want to assess your condition and see long-lasting results.
We offer one of the most comprehensive acne solutions and best acne spot treatment in Singapore! Our doctors have over 40 years of combined experience treating acne and have developed a well-structured and proven acne treatment program that can help you eliminate acne in just 4 key steps:
Step 1: Facial treatment
Step 2: Laser treatment
Step 3: Selective follicle treatment
Step 4: Topical and oral therapy
Together, these 4 steps target every key element of acne and is made possible using our wide range of innovative and technologically advanced solutions that include lasers such as the Q-switch and Vbeam laser, microneedling radiofrequency systems such as the powerful SECRET RF and INFINI treatment and HydraFacial.
Most recently, we have also brought in the latest Gold Photothermal Therapy (PTT) treatment that is used to effectively destroy the sebaceous glands to treat acne at its root! Our doctors also prescribe patients with topical and oral medications for a permanent cure for acne that doesn’t recur years down the road.
Since adult skin is slower to regenerate and heal, acne scars can be another problem faced by patients. This is why we also offer acne scar removal treatment that includes subcision and Rejuran Healer.
All of our treatments are proven safe, effective and are minimally invasive to cater to busy professionals or anyone who wants to achieve a clearer complexion and naturally beautiful skin.
Interested to know more? Contact us to learn more about our acne spot treatment program and book your consultation today!