Lifestyle: 14/01/10

Spots are not just for teenagers and getting rid of them is notoriously difficult, whatever age you are. Brenda McCormick seeks salvation

Brenda McCormick

As most people over the age of 20 know, blemishes don't just automatically stop after your teens. Adult acne is commonplace and according to Janette Ryan, pharmacy training manager for Vichy and La Roche-Posay, it can be caused by hectic lifestyles, stress, pollution, poor-quality cosmetics, lack of sleep or menstrual cycles.

"Women can experience blemishes over the age of 20 and, since a large proportion will have dry and/or sensitive skin, they need to be careful," she says. "Some traditional anti-acne remedies can be too strong or harsh for many skin types." Ryan recommends La Roche-Posay's Effaclar range.

As she explains, there are several types of blemishes. "Blackheads are clogged pores that remain open; they form when dead skin cells and sebum are tightly packed inside a follicle. If the plug enlarges and pops out of the duct, the sebum, the skin's natural oil, comes in contact with the air, and oxidation occurs, turning the plug black.

"Whiteheads are also caused by clogged pores but the pore is closed and the oil remains trapped under the skin's surface causing a small hard white lump. Also known as papules, red raised bumps occur when the oily materials inside the follicle rupture into surrounding skin. These spots can become very painful."

The right skincare products can help a lot. For oily skin, ingredients to look for are salicylic acid, alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA) and lipo hydroxy acid (LHA).

"Ensure you use light-texture products such as fluids; oil-free products will suit best, and look for non-comedogenic products which don't clog pores," Ryan advises.

For spot-prone skin, look for ingredients that have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory actions, such as glycolic (anti- bacterial), piroctone olamine (anti-fungal) and niacinamide, or Vitamin B3 (anti-inflammatory).

A balanced diet will also help. Ryan explains: "A diet rich in simple sugars (chocolate, sweets) is believed to promote increased sebum production. A diet rich in saturated fats (cooked meat, chips and full-fat milk) also seems to promote the appearance of pimples. However, if your diet is varied and balanced and your intake of the above foods is in moderation, your skin should remain healthy. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day to help eliminate toxins from your body."

Both Vichy and La Roche-Posay are widely available in pharmacies