Adult Skin Acne
If you're still experiencing acne breakouts in your 20s or 30s, you're not alone. The Acne Resource Center reports that about 20 percent of adults in the United States suffer from breakouts. But only 11 percent of adults, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, seek help for skin problems.
Acne can develop anywhere on the body, but it's especially prevalent in area with many hair follicles. Sebaceous glands, which produce an oil called sebum, are located in the follicles. Sebum is secreted naturally to coat the hair. If too much oil is secreted, if it builds up and clogs the pores, or if cells inside the pores shed and block the hair follicle, acne can develop.
All acne is not the same. Pustules, papules, blackheads and whiteheads all have distinct features. Pustules are inflamed lesions characterized by a red circle with a while or yellow center. These are pimples that many people choose to pop, which can cause scarring. Papules are inflamed bumps that are red and tender but aren't filled with pus. Blackheads, according to Acne.org, result when a pore is only partially blocked. The trapped oil, bacteria and dead skin cells pool at the surface of the skin. Blackheads typically take a long time to clear. Whiteheads are the result of completely blocked pores and clear more quickly than blackheads.
Acne can be caused by dirty skin, bacteria, oily pores, a buildup of dead skin cells in the hair follicle or hormonal activity. Even genetics can be a factor. Prevention efforts should focusing on skin cleansing. Using ordinary soap and water can prevent sebum production for several hours. Washing your skin with plain soap, or soap containing the acne-fighting ingredient salicylic acid, can improve your complexion. Exfoliating skin once or twice a week by using a cleanser with an exfoliating agent will remove dead skin cells and loosen oil deposits. Continue your cleansing regimen even when you aren't experiencing breakouts, because pimples start developing beneath the surface of the skin, where you cannot see them.
Spot treatments containing benzoyl peroxide work by killing P. acnes, the bacterium that can cause pimples. But if you have mild to moderate acne caused by hormonal fluctuations related to your menstrual cycle, use a spot treatment with salicylic acid instead. Salicylic acid slows the shedding of skin cells in the pores and prevents clogging.
A regular cleansing and spot-treatment routine may not be aggressive enough to battle more severe breakouts. In this case, ask a physician about prescription medications that curb the production of sebum or minimize the effect of hormones on your skin. Women with hormone-related acne sometimes take contraceptives containing the hormones estrogen and progestin, which work by suppressing the production of sebum. Tretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A, is a prescription medication that unclogs pores and increases the production of new surface skin cells.
MayoClinic.com reports that laser therapy may help destroy the bacterium that causes breakouts. Blue light therapy uses a low-intensity, pulsing laser to destroy the bacterium. It can also reduce the production of sebum in the hair follicle by destroying sebaceous glands. This treatment should be considered only for severe, chronic breakouts.
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