Mature Skin Acne
Acne is considered the bane of youth, but this unsightly skin condition plagues plenty of people well into adulthood. Young sufferers often go on to be adult sufferers; others don't experience their first outbreaks until their teen years are a distant memory. Just as hormones contribute to acne outbreaks in the young, similar imbalances play a role in mature skin acne.
Adult Acne Causes
Acne lesions erupt when sebaceous glands in the hair follicles--signaled by hormonal imbalances--overproduce sebum, the lubricating oil that keeps skin moist and supple. Having excess sebum increases the likelihood of a follicle blockage, especially as dead skin cells are shed and added to the mix. Bacteria introduced into the follicle are the final ingredient in the recipe for an acne breakout. The resulting inflammation, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), manifests as pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, and in severe cases, nodules and cysts. Though women are more prone to mature skin acne than men, having a family history of adult acne can increase the risks of developing this condition. Sometimes the cause of acne can't be pinpointed.
Women and Acne
Women are more likely to experience adult acne due to shifting hormones related to the reproductive cycle. Dr. Diane S. Berson, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, N.Y., says that up to half of menstruating women experience outbreaks and increased facial oil production the week before their periods. This is due in part to the male hormone androgen, which is normally present in small amounts in women but sometimes overproduced during the reproductive years. Androgen can cause an over-stimulation of sebaceous glands, which creates a fertile environment for the development of acne lesions. Oral contraceptives are the most effective treatment for this kind of mature skin acne. They help regulate androgen and sebum production.
Mild to Moderate Adult Acne
Topical treatments can afford effective control for sufferers of mild to moderate mature skin acne. Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most widely recommended for mild to moderate problems, says the AAD. Benzoyl peroxide, available in over-the-counter and prescription products, increases skin cell turnover, thereby reducing acne-causing bacteria. Topical antibiotics can also help control skin bacteria. Some adults get good results from the use of over-the-counter sodium sulfacetamide- and sulfur-containing products as well.
Topical retinoids, once notorious for causing skin irritation, are now available in gentler formulations that are just as effective as their harsher predecessors. Derived from vitamin A, they, too, increase skin cell turnover while preventing new breakouts. Adults with acne are especially attracted to these products, which can also reduce the appearance of skin wrinkles and sun damage. Though some retinoids are available over the counter, prescribed versions are more effective.
Cosmetics and Adult Acne
Women with acne might be concerned about the application of makeup, which can aggravate their condition. The cosmetic industry has taken notice. The introduction of products containing acne-fighting ingredients fill drugstore shelves. Although the appeal of foundations and moisturizers that claim to fight acne is understandable, the AAD says they aren't likely to be strong enough to take on an adult skin problem.
Antibiotics for Adult Acne
It's not uncommon for oral antibiotics to be prescribed for adult acne problems, especially in the initial phase of treatment. The strong bacteria-fighting boost afforded by these prescribed medications can kick-start an effective adult acne treatment plan. When used in conjunction with a retinoid, oral antibiotics can often be discontinued after a few months with continued good results as long as retinoid treatment is maintained.
Stubborn Adult Acne
In rare cases, mature skin acne can be stubbornly resistant to treatment. When this happens, the powerful drug isotretinoin might be prescribed in a low-dose oral form. This medication carries many side effects--some of them potentially serious--so a physician carefully monitors treatment. The biggest concern is the high risk of severe birth defects if taken by women who are pregnant. Women are required to be on an effective form of birth control before being prescribed this medication. Despite these concerns, oral isotretinoin is an effective last resort treatment, successfully helping adults with acne even in their 50s and 60s, according to the AAD.
Control Adult Acne
In the busy world of adults, acne needn't be a major concern. To reduce an adult acne problem, Brigham and Women's Hospital says to choose skin care products that are clearly labeled "non-comedogenic," which means the product is not likely to encourage the production of acne. And you're never too old to mind what your mother said: Don't pick an acne blemish. This causes it to become inflamed and infected.
If over-the-counter remedies aren't effectively controlling outbreaks, consult a dermatologist for an acne treatment plan.
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