Although most common during the teenage years, acne may also appear for the first time in midlife or worsen then. Acne results from inflammation around the hair follicles and oil-producing sebaceous glands of the skin. Hormones known as androgens (the so-called male hormones), which increase during puberty in both males and females, contribute to acne. Hormone fluctuations associated with menstruation and menopause make women more susceptible.
Treating Adult Acne
A number of treatments are available to clear up acne, including some that you apply to your skin and others you take in pill form. First-line topical treatments typically fall into one of these two categories:
Salicylic Acid Washes.
These formulas loosen dead skin cells and help dislodge plugs from pore openings, seen as whiteheads and blackheads. Salicylic acid washes are available in over-the-counter and prescription formulations, but the prescription versions aren’t any stronger.
Benzoyl peroxide gels, lotions, and washes.
These products dry and peel the skin, stop bacterial growth, and help clear blocked pores. They are also available in weaker over-the-counter and stronger prescription formulations. For more serious cases, doctors can also prescribe any of the following:
Available as creams, gels, or liquids, these drugs help clear the skin of plugged follicles by increasing the turnover of skin cells. The most common one, Retin-A, others, may cause skin irritation, but a time-release microencapsulated version, Retin-A Micro, is less irritating.
Other topical retinoids include adapalene (Dierin) and tazarotene (Tazorac). Because these medications increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, always use them with a sunscreen.