Acne in 20s is common, but these days, dermatologists are seeing more and more women with acne in 30s as well as 40s. Sudden adult acne in women is painful and also affects one’s confidence. Let us discuss the causes behind sudden adult acne rosacea and ways to treat it:
What causes sudden adult acne?
Acne in 20s and the teenage years typically occurs when hair follicles on the skin get clogged with combination of dirt, sweat, dead skin cells and an oily substance called sebum. To top this all, a bacterium called Propionibacterium Acnes or P.Acnes for short may also be present. This leads to inflammation of the hair follicle which contributes to hard nodular cysts, pus, pain and redness.
In many adults, the acne from teenage years or their 20s continues to affect their skin the 30s and 40s as well. However, these days, nearly three quarters of adult acne female sufferers have actually known to have had blemish free skin in their youth.
In women, hormonal fluctuations are mainly responsible for adult acne. Pregnancy, menopause or stopping/starting of birth control pills could all contribute to sudden onset acne rosacea. Many women in 30s suffer from cyclical acne which starts before their menstrual period is due.
Sudden onset adult acne is typically seen around the chin, jaw line, or around the mouth. Lesions may even be seen around the chest and back.
Treat sudden onset adult acne rosacea as a warning sign
In women who develop sudden adult acne, there may be an underlying health issue. If there is also thinning of hair and bald patches visible on the scalp, then it is a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. In extreme cases, a hormone secreting tumor may be located in the adrenal gland or ovaries. In fact; this brings us to the acne and infertility link. According to an article in Health magazine, a US study found that nearly 20 to 30% women in their 20s and 30s have to take prescription antibiotics for their acne. Women who took antibiotics continuously for 500 days were twice as likely to develop breast cancer and also fertility issues. In majority of the cases, women did not respond to dietary changes or topical treatments for acne. As a result, they had to return to their dermatologist who would typically prescribe another round of antibiotics. In many cases, these women have PCOS along with other signs like hirsutism or facial hair, infertility and scant periods. Note that ovarian cysts could also occur in adulthood in women who have conceived before are not overly hairy or do not even have scanty periods.
It is very important to discuss these issues with a dermatologist since no amount of topical or oral adult acne treatment will be beneficial unless the underlying causes of acne are treated first.
What food causes pimples?
Diet also plays an important role in the onset of sudden adult acne. Many foods are known to be inflammatory or acidic in nature. Excess consumption of such foods could be one of the common causes of acne in youth and adulthood alike. The food groups which cause pimples primarily include:
- Fried food and junk food
However, some experts believe that food per se may not cause acne. That being said; it is still important to eat a healthy diet when dealing with acne. You could try eating more alkaline foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables while simultaneously reducing the intake of acidic foods like meat, dairy, sugary beverages, alcohol and caffeine. See if these dietary changes reduce your acne. Many women have seen incredible results by giving up all kinds of grains and eating Gluten free or plant based diets.
Best acne treatment products for adults
Mild to moderate acne
There are many good acne treatment products for treating mild to moderate acne in adults.
- Wash your face twice a day with a mild, non-alcohol based face wash. Talk to your doctor about the right face wash for your skin type.
- Ask your doctor to recommend a good over-the-counter or prescription lotion for your acne. Note that these products are often drying in nature and could cause flaking and peeling of the skin. Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer or lotion and avoid sun exposure which could aggravate dryness.
- If these acne treatment products for adults do not show desired results, your doctor might prescribe Benzoyl peroxide based creams or gels. These work by reducing sebum produced by the oil glands.
- Resorcinol, salicylic acid, and sulfur containing creams or face washes can also help reduce the bacteria in follicles and prevent acne, whiteheads and blackheads.
Moderate to severe acne
- Moderate to severe forms of acne may be treated with antibiotic creams and oral medicines. Retinoic acid, which is a derivative or Vitamin A can also prevent blackheads, whiteheads and papules.
- Antibiotic pills such as Erythromycin may also show results. Note that antibiotics affect the performance of birth control pills, so if you are taking them, make sure you also use other methods of contraception.
Both retinoic acid and antibiotics medicines can increase photo-sensitivity. So do ensure using a sunscreen when going outside and seeking the shade when possible.
Severe acne consists of deep cysts, blackheads, pus filled papules etc which cover a significant part of the skin.
- It is important to seek guidance of an experienced dermatologist to treat such acne.
- Scarring could result from this type of acne. Talk to the doctor about ways to prevent it.
- Skin injections can help prevent inflamed cysts. These reduce inflammation of the hair follicles to prevent pimples.
- Prescription medicines such as Accutane® are known to give relief in such sudden onset acne rosacea.
- Drugs like Spironolactone® in combination with birth control pills can also help prevent adult acne in women.
If, as an adult, you have always had clear complexion but are experiencing sudden cystic acne, then do talk to a doctor. It could signal hormonal imbalance or another underlying cause which should be treated immediately.