Adult women and acne: 5 things you need to know

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FEATURE — I see acne in my adult female patients every day.

Interestingly, even though I can see it on their skin, women rarely discuss it as a health concern. So I always bring it up if I see it. It is absolutely treatable, at any age.

Acne treatment focuses on three basic things:

  • Decreasing skin bacteria that infect oil glands.
  • Keeping oil glands from getting blocked up and retaining oil.
  • Decreasing the effects of hormones on the oil glands so they produce less.

Even with these basics in mind, some myths about acne and how to treat it still prevail.

Here are five myths I commonly dispel with my patients.

Myth 1. There are treatments you can use to get rid of a big pimple.

There aren’t things you can dab on or stick on or whatever. Don’t waste your money. Acne treatment focuses on prevention, not treating outbreaks. Aside from some things you can buy over-the-counter, be aware that virtually everything else is likely completely unhelpful.

Myth 2. Diet has nothing to do with acne.

This actually is not true. Studies show that it absolutely can affect your acne. Sugar, dairy and certain fats can greatly affect the severity of acne. Diet affects some people more than others, but it is one thing you can do on your own to improve things.

I should add that the “don’t eat chocolate” thing is probably a myth, unless you are eating a lot of chocolate.

Myth 3. Acne is a puberty problem not an adult problem.

The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that acne is reported in 50 percent of women between age 20-29, 35 percent of women between 30-39 and 26 percent of women between 40-49.

Myth 4. There are no effective other-the-counter remedies.

There are two OTC remedies that are excellent, well-proven acne treatments that can be used at the same time because their mechanisms are different.

Benzoyl peroxide helps decrease inflammation and eliminate skin bacteria, and the lowest dose is shown to be less irritating and as effective as higher doses. Also, adapalene (Differin gel or cream) helps keep glands from getting clogged and retaining oil.

Myth 5. Makeup and sunscreen block your pores and cause acne.

This is not correct, though there may be some types of foundation that can block oil glands. Simply use a “non-comedogenic” liquid or a powder-based foundation. Moisturizers are fine. Sunscreen is fine.

If you suffer from acne, see your doctor. We can you help take the next step to clear your skin up and keep it that way.


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