Here’s all you need to know about adult acne and how to treat it.

By Jill Case

You’re not a teenager anymore, so why is your skin acting like you are? Unfortunately, about 54 percent of adult women have the occasional acne breakout, and women are more likely to have adult acne than men. To learn more, Austin Woman talked with Dr. Ted Lain, the chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology. Here’s what we learned:

Hormone changes are often the cause of adult acne.

“When we see a woman with adult acne, hormones are often the cause, specifically sensitivity to testosterone and estrogen,” Lain says.

Fortunately, these issues can often be treated with hormonal birth control. The estrogen and progesterone in hormonal birth control help lower the amount of androgens—a group of hormones that include testosterone—in the body. Androgens stimulate the skin to produce sebum, the oil that stimulates acne. The body also produces more androgens during times of stress, another cause of adult acne.

Hair and skin care products can also be culprits.

“Women with acne on the neck, hairline and shoulder area should look at their hair-care products,” Lain advises.

Oil-based products may cause problems by clogging pores, so avoid products with ingredients like petrolatum (the active ingredient in petroleum jelly), silicones, shea butter and jojoba oil. Skin-care products should generally be oil-free, non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic.

Consider the risk factors. 

Lain points out that several other factors can raise a woman’s risk for adult acne, including PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as family history of adult acne, poor diet and certain medications. If you’re suffering from adult acne, consider seeing a dermatologist for a faster diagnosis and more effective treatment.

Dr. Ted Lain’s Tips for Preventing Adult Acne

1. Don’t pick your face. Doing so transfers bacteria that are on your fingers to your face, and increases inflammation.

2. Clean your cellphone. Your cellphone harbors an incredible amount of bacteria that can be transferred to your face. Clean your phone each night with an alcohol pad.

3. Lose the liquid foundation. Liquid foundation also harbors bacteria. Switch to mineral powder foundation instead.

4. Eat a healthy diet. Focus on eating a healthier diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, olive oil and lean protein. If it’s healthy for your body, it’s healthy for your skin.

The Truth About Accutane (Isotretinoin)

Accutane, or Isotretinoin, is a strong medication used to treat severe cases of acne. There are many myths in cyberspace about this medication, so AW asked Dr. Ted Lain to give us the honest facts about this drug.

“There is a lot of false information about Isotretinoin, but there is one absolute truth: It’s very important not to get pregnant while taking this medication and for 30 days thereafter because it can cause serious birth defects,” he says. “I go over all risks thoroughly with patients who do decide to take this drug.”

He also notes that many of his patients are concerned because they read that Isotretinoin causes depression.

“The truth is that the relationship between Isotretinoin and depression is not understood,” he says. “I have had some patients become depressed while taking Isotretinoin, and others whose mood improved while on Isotretinoin.”

If you are under a physician’s care for depression, you should tell your doctor so he or she can consult with your dermatologist before prescribing Isotretinoin.

Other myths include:

1. It stunts your growth. This is an extremely rare side effect, usually related to very high doses and prolonged courses.

2. It affects a woman’s fertility. With so much effort expended on preventing pregnancy while taking Isotretinoin, little research has been done regarding successful pregnancies after completing a course. Based on Lain’s own research and knowledge, female infertility has certainly not been reported as a side effect.

If you and your doctor decide that Isotretinoin will work for you, make sure to have a thorough discussion about the medication’s risks and benefits.


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