Acne can feel very isolating, especially adult acne. Some of my patients feel frustrated that they are “still” experiencing acne, and others are perplexed by “why now?” if they never struggled with acne in their teens.
Let’s be clear: acne is absolutely not a “teenage problem”. Adult acne affects 20-30% of Canadian adults aged 20 to 40.
Studies show that as we get older, we are less willing to tolerate acne. This explains why there is a disconnect between my patient’s lived experience of their acne, and the response they sometimes get from their friends, family, or even physicians – “it’s not that bad”, “it’s just a little acne” etc.
So, what is acne and what do we know about it?
Acne is caused by a complex interplay between our hormones, bacteria on our skin (cutibacterium acnes), sebaceous gland activity and decreased barrier function of the skin. Sometimes using too many acne products is actually contributing to the problem by breaking down the skin barrier!
Here are some tips if you are struggling with acne:
- There are some dietary modifications that may be helpful, mainly staying away from sugar and processed carbohydrates. A low glycemic index diet has been shown to be associated with less incidence of acne. This doesn’t mean that diet is the “cure” for acne, but avoiding processed foods is a healthy place to start for healthy skin.
- Keeping skin care simple but effective. A gentle but thorough cleanser, twice per day, followed by a moisturizer and a daily sunscreen (minimum SPF 30) are good places to start. Several over-the-counter and prescription acne products cause increased sensitivity to UV light so getting in the habit of good sun protection early will serve you well.
- Benzoyl peroxide acne washes are available in the acne aisle at most pharmacies. They can be used twice per week, left on for 2-3 minutes then rinsed off and have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Just be aware, they will bleach your towels so use ones you don’t care about! If you have mostly comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads), a salicylic acid-containing wash can help to loosen them up.
- Avoid picking and squeezing! This can lead to more inflammation and scarring. Please, don’t pick!
- If you are struggling with acne, a consultation with a board certified dermatologist can get you on the right path with prescription treatments.
- I also offer laser therapy as part of your acne treatment plan, both for active acne lesions and for acne-induced redness and scarring. During your consultation, I can advise if this is a recommended part of your treatment plan.
There are many options and I believe that it is important that you feel comfortable with what you put on your skin and in your body. If you are struggling with acne, speak to your doctor or see a dermatologist to help you get that clear, healthy glow.
This article is intended to provide general information and is not intended as a substitute for assessment and care from your doctor.