If you thought acne was supposed to disappear once you made it past puberty and now find yourself battling zits as an adult, you're not alone. It turns out, acne isn't a teenage-specific condition, and today, more and more women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond are experiencing the phenomenom of adult acne. The Huffington Post Healthy Living editors went to the experts to get the best zit-zapping tips—so you can feel confident putting your best face forward.
A pimple occurs when sebum—the lubricant that naturally moisturizes our skin and hair—is trapped under dead skin cells and debris in a hair follicle, according to the Mayo Clinic. Typically, sebum rises to the surface, where it is able to condition the skin. If it gets trapped, it creates an ideal circumstance for bacteria to grow. What are sometimes called "under-grounders" (those nasty, painful cysts) are actually pockets of sebum and bacteria that are trapped further down along the hair shaft, deep within the follicle.
Adult acne is actually very common. In fact, about 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 60 have breakouts, according to WebMD. So why would a person develop acne later in life? Very often, it's related to hormones.
"When adult women experience acne outbreaks, hormones are usually the primary culprit," Diane S. Berson, M.D., says in an interview with Medical News Daily. "Hormonal acne can be particularly frustrating because it may not respond to the same over-the-counter treatments that worked for some women during their teenage years."
Menopause, hormonal treatments, and a growing ratio of androgen (male) hormones such as testosterone may also be contributing to the sudden emergence of acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. For example, research shows that testosterone causes increased production of sebum by the sebaceous gland.
Other causes of adult acne can be medication related. The Mayo Clinic reports that some psychotropic medications, such as lithium, steroids, or hormonal medications can contribute to acne breakouts.
The best course of action may be to talk to a doctor about having your hormone levels checked and to speak with a dermatologist about proper skincare. Since many acne medications and special soaps are geared towards teenage skin, which is thicker and less dry, picking the right skin care regimen for an adult requires greater care.