There’s nothing more disappointing than waiting until your 20s to
finally have clear skin, and then learning the hard way that bad breakouts
don’t necessarily end when your teenage years do. Coming to terms
with adult acne is difficult—best rest assured, you’re not
the only grown woman dealing with zits.
“Put it this way: it is so common that pimples are meeting wrinkles,”
dermatologist Neal Schultz, M.D., creator of Beauty Rx Skincare, tells
SELF. “For the last 10-20 years, adult acne has been increasing.
It can even go into your 50s, right to menopause.” If you had acne
as a teen, chances are you’ve got oily skin that’s prone to
breakouts. But even if you didn’t, it’s still possible you’ll
end up with adult acne.
Even though the outlook seems dreary (acne
and wrinkles sounds like some sort of sick joke, right?), knowing what’s
causing your complexion woes can help you clear up your skin and keep
breakouts at bay.
1. Your hormones may be to blame.
“Fluctuation in hormones, such as before one’s menstrual cycle,
is the main cause,” explains dermatologist Julia Tzu, M.D., of Wall
Street Dermatology. Specifically, androgens (male hormones) like testosterone.
This usually rears its ugly head in the form of deep (painful) cystic
acne around the chin, neck, and back, says dermatologist Rebecca Kazin,
M.D., F.A.A.D., of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery
and the Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology.
2. Stress can be an extra (and very influential) driving force.
Another source of hormonal changes: stress. Whether you work full-time,
are a full-time mom, or juggle both, chances are your stress levels are
high. “When you’re stressed, you have an organ called the
adrenal gland that makes the stress hormone cortisol, and puts it out
into the body to help the body deal with stress,” Dr. Schultz explains.
Unfortunately, a tiny bit of testosterone leaks out with it. For a woman,
this male hormone can drive the oil glands to produce more oil—the
root cause of breakouts. (Thanks a lot hormones!)
3. Pollution isn’t helping your case either.
“Air pollution just puts this layer of crap on your face,”
Schultz says. Especially if you live in a city. Go walk around outside
for a half hour, he suggests. When you come home, wipe your face with
a toner pad or face wipe, and see what color it is. Warning: You’re
not going to like what you see.
4. You may be using the wrong products.
If you have oily or combination skin and are prone to breakouts, you should
be using skincare products labeled “oil-free,” “non-comedogenic,”
or “water-based,” Schultz says. Just one of these will ensure
that the lotion you’re slathering on isn’t going to clog your
pores and make matters worse. Try a gel-based moisturizer like Belif The
True Cream Aqua Bomb; for an SPF option, we like PCA Skin Weightless Protection
Broad Spectrum SPF.
5. You’re cleansing too frequently and intensely.
“Over-washing your face can make acne worse,” Kazin explains.
Cleansing more than twice a day is too much, and can just dry out skin,
“which can cause [it] to produce more oil to overcompensate.”
Your Clarisonic addiction may not be helping either. “It helps remove
all makeup and helps your cleanser work better, but I worry about the
coarse ones. It’s almost like giving yourself microdermabrasion
twice a day, which can cause a breakout,” says Kazin. Schultz seconds
that: “Anything that rubs skin will, to a small extent, promote
acne.” That includes a grainy or gritty cleanser, too. Try these
two gentle face washes instead: Phace Bioactive Detoxifying Gel Cleanser
or Frank Body Creamy Face Cleanser.
6. Specific foods may or may not have an effect—the evidence is all
We’ve all heard the foods that allegedly cause acne—chocolate,
fried foods, pizza, caffeine, nuts. But Schultz reminds us that in large
statistically significant studies, these have not been proven to cause
zits, but there are always exceptions. “If you break out when you
eat chocolate, don’t eat chocolate.” Same with dairy, which
again, has been shown in some cases to have an effect but no concrete
cause-and-effect relationship exists.
The one food Schultz does recommend to avoid is iodine. “Iodine causes
acne in everyone if you eat enough,” he says. You can find it in
shellfish, like lobster, shrimp, crab, and some greens like kelp and spinach.
The different between iodine and those other “acne-causing foods”
is that iodine builds up over weeks and months before it starts to affect skin.
7. Your sweet tooth is causing a skin problem.
Another potential skin saboteur is sugar because it raises your insulin
level. More and more evidence shows that insulin may boost those oil-triggering
male hormones, Schultz explains. Stick to low-glycemic foods—ones
that have complex carbs like whole grains, which break down slower in
the body and cause less of an insulin spike. Your health will be better
for it, too.
Originally featured on Self.com by