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What You Need to Know About Adult Acne

Form your battle plan for dealing with breakouts.



If you never thought you’d be dealing with pimples and wrinkles at the same time, you’re not alone. Blemishes pop up well

into the anti-aging years for plenty of women. In fact, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that 45 percent of women ages 21-30, 25 percent of women 31-40 and 12 percent of women 41-50 were still plagued by acne. Fortunately, putting an end to adult acne is doable. Here’s how:


“There are so many things you can do for acne,” says Sloane Farber, aesthetician supervisor at the Fountain Spa’s Ramsey location. To keep breakouts at bay, she recommends glycolic or salicylic acid peels, which help fresh cells surface, clear pores, heal skin and give collagen a boost. Blackhead and whitehead extractions are also critical, along with using a special wand to kill bacteria and minimize inflammation.


Not surprisingly, what you eat matters. “Foods high in simple sugars and simple carbs can absolutely aggravate acne,” says Mitchell Chasin, MD, medical director of the Reflections Center for Skin and Body in Livingston. “It’s proven at this point.” Dairy (especially skim milk) is another common culprit along with high-glycemic foods, according to the American Association of Dermatology. Oddly enough, fatty fare won’t make you break out, says Chasin. Of course, without the sugar and carbs, what’s the point?


Falling asleep with your makeup on. Overexfoliating. Over-treating. Compulsively picking your skin. Sometimes, you’re the problem. If lazy or self-destructive behaviors are resulting in breakouts, make every effort to stop and hit the reset button.


When it comes to managing acne successfully, only 30 percent can be attributed to professional treatments, estimates Farber. But there’s a lot you can do to stay on top of skincare at home, too. She recommends cleansers and treatments with glycolic and salicylic acid. Charcoal and mud masks, light therapy (those white masks you’ve seen) and natural therapies (like tea tree oil) also help. Some sunscreens can actually block pores and make acne worse. So swap your chemical sunblock for a mineral (zincbased) one—its micronized particles sit on top of the skin making it less prone to acne (the same goes for mineral-based makeup, too).


Ready for prescription-strength help? “Topical therapies are the first line of treatment,” says Chasin. Benzoyl peroxide and retinoids are go-tos, but doctors are also using Aczone (5% dapsone gel), part of a newer class of anti-inflammatory topicals. They also have fewer side effects than many other treatments, says Chasin.


If treating from the outside isn’t working, try using oral medication like antibiotics or hormone blockers to limit testosterone and birth control pills to balance hormones. “Hormones play a role in most [people’s] acne,” says Chasin. Telltale signs include lower face breakouts a week before Aunt Flo arrives.


Sometimes you need to bring in the big guns: lasers. Today’s state-of-the-art acne arsenal includes the Smoothbeam (slows down the glands’ production of oils), V-Beam (reduces redness) and Isolaz (clears and sterilizes pores through suction and blue light therapy). The bottom line: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to battling the bumps. It’s a combination of committed home care and professional intervention when necessary.

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