Three things you didn't realise could be causing adult acne - and how to treat it
There's more to adult acne than you may think - but here's how you can treat it.
While acne is something we hope to leave behind along with our teenage years, for many women and men it's a problem that persists throughout adulthood.
Irish skin expert Jennifer Rock, aka The Skin Nerd, told Independent.ie the three things you didn't realise that could be causing your acne, as well as how to get rid of it for good.
While we're all aware of the damage that stress can do to your body, Jennifer explains that being stressed can severely affect the condition of your skin too.
"Although it's a constant reality and we have now accepted living a manic lifestyle as the norm, our organs - the skin being the largest - will not oblige nor tolerate the constant adrenaline levels we chose to put ourselves under," says Jennifer.
"Stress ultimately causes an epidemic of free radical exposure (oxidative stress) into the body making it more susceptible to inflammation and the inability to fight off untoward bacteria etc. It will decrease circulation to the skin, inhibit cell turnover and reduce healing ability. In essence, it dehydrates, becomes less resilient, gets sluggish in appearance, and the form/consistency of oil differs, encouraging more spots."
The onset of a breakout may make you want to run to the bathroom and "scrub away" the spots to the best of your ability, but Jennifer says that exfoliating to such an extent can cause even more problems.
"Over-exfoliation is another culprit that contributes toward the condition. Yet it is typically an answer that baffles people, particularly those prone to breakouts and an over-production of oil – they tend to opt for de-greasing solutions and stripping oil-free options. However, oil is a primary and a key requirement for the skin's superficial, protective layer."
"Keeping the oil at bay and using ingredients that mop up superficial oil are ideal. However, using electronic cleansing devises daily, enzyme or acid-based cleansers nightly (unless advised via consult) can remove more oil than intended and thereby trigger the body to produce more to defend the top layer of the skin. The oil is there as a protective mechanism, and by over-exfoliating you leave the skin exposed."
If you love sugar but hate acne, you might want to have a look at the relationship between the two. With sugar hiding in everything from yogurts to smoothies, Jennifer says that our bodies aren't made to deal with such high levels in our diets.
"I often sing my way through the day explaining how we are not equipped to deal with the level of inflammation we place into our body. Sugar causes inflammation, processed foods cause inflammation, burnt food causes inflammation. It's a matter of analysing our food and seeing it as fuel as opposed to always being driven by our taste buds.
"Although the saying 'eat that chocolate bar and you will surely get acne' may not be exactly true, the reality is that sugar can feed bacteria and so after an alcohol splurge or sugar coma dinner an eruption often occurs."
How to treat adult acne
While adult acne is a common problem, anyone who has the condition at any age can relate to the embarrassment it can bring, notes Jennifer.
"Acne at all ages is debilitating. Some argue adult acne is 'worse' as they are in the working world and 'supposed to be past that stage,' yet as a teenager when you're at a crossroads with numerous life decisions and peer influence to deal with, acne can be an added pressure shaping confidence, interaction and ultimately their future as a result."
To begin tackling your acne, Jennifer, who's a qualified aesthetician and facialist, recommends consulting with a skin practitioner and adopting a simple skin care routine.
Jennifer's recommended skin care routine begins with cleansing with a hydrating lightweight lotion and applying a scar prevention serum. She advises to then use a lightweight "oil-mopping" SPF during the day and finish by incorporating retinol or Vitamin A into your routine as they "balance oil, stimulate exfoliation from within, reduce scarring, hydrate the lower layer of skin and ultimately have the ability to repair the damaged lower layers of the skin."
Makeup-lovers may want to pay attention to the base products they use, with mineral products being Jennifer's most highly recommended.
"If you are a makeup wearer, although you may crave full coverage, you may need to opt for a mineral option as opposed to a high street brand. What's the difference? Mineral will benefit the skin for the 12 hours you sport it, allowing the skin to function optimally, act as an anti-inflammatory, natural SPF, hydrate, won't clog pores, yet will provide full coverage in a progressive application manner.
"Typical makeup brands merely paint the face without consideration of the ingredients and length of time on the skin. If you're choosing skincare wisely, invest in skincare and makeup in the form of mineral."
Cleaning your makeup brushes, bed sheets, scarves and mobile phone is another thing Jennifer recommends doing regularly as they can be home to a host of bacteria.
Jennifer advises seeking medical help if your adult acne begins to affect your daily life, and wait 28 days before you expect to see a difference when starting a new routine.
Lastly, Jennifer says: "Do not feel alone. Seventy five per cent of people are affected by acne at some stage in their lives.
"Take photos to monitor your progress. Do not obsess - although that's easy for me to say!"
Visit Jennifer's website, theskinnerd.ie, for more information and advice.