Acne is one of the most com­mon skin con­di­tions in peo­ple of all ages, though it affects teenagers at a high­er rate than adults. An esti­mat­ed 93 per­cent of teenagers strug­gle with acne while only 73.3 per­cent of adults expe­ri­ence reg­u­lar breakouts. Regard­less of the age of onset, acne always forms in the same way. That being said, the under­ly­ing fac­tors which con­tribute to acne break­outs may vary by age. Here’s what you need to know about the dif­fer­ence between teen and adult acne.

How Does Acne Form?

Acne vul­garis, more com­mon­ly known as acne, is a skin con­di­tion in which the hair fol­li­cles or pores become clogged. Sebum and dead skin cells accu­mu­late to cre­ate a plug which can then become infect­ed with bac­te­ria on the sur­face of the skin. The result­ing infec­tion trig­gers inflam­ma­tion and the for­ma­tion of var­i­ous types of acne lesions. Acne break­outs can occur any­where on the body but are most com­mon on the face. Oth­er areas where acne break­outs are like­ly to occur include the chest, back, and shoul­ders. Though acne typ­i­cal­ly appears in ado­les­cence, it can per­sist through the ear­ly thirties.

Common Factors in Adult vs Teen Acne

Hor­mones are the most com­mon fac­tor impli­cat­ed in teen acne. Dur­ing puber­ty, both boys and girls expe­ri­ence fluc­tu­a­tions in hor­mones, par­tic­u­lar­ly androgens. Andro­gens are male sex hor­mones and, in addi­tion to trig­ger­ing the phys­i­cal changes asso­ci­at­ed with puber­ty, they also play a role in reg­u­lat­ing the skin’s oil pro­duc­tion. An increase in andro­gens like testos­terone can increase oil pro­duc­tion in the skin, increas­ing the risk for acne break­outs right along with it. Oth­er fac­tors impli­cat­ed in teen acne include genet­ics and diet. Cer­tain eth­nic­i­ties and skin types are more prone to acne than oth­ers. Con­sum­ing high-glycemic foods includ­ing refined car­bo­hy­drates and added sug­ar may increase your risk for teen acne as well. Teen acne is often linked to chang­ing lev­els of male hor­mones, but adult acne often involves female sex hor­mones like estrogen. Hor­mon­al fluc­tu­a­tions trig­gered by men­stru­a­tion and stress can lead to an increase in oil pro­duc­tion and break­outs. In fact, 70 per­cent of women report wors­en­ing acne right before they get their period. Oth­er fac­tors that may affect adult acne include per­son­al hygiene, the use of cer­tain beau­ty prod­ucts, diet, and med­ica­tions. Pore-clog­ging make­up and skin­care prod­ucts can trig­ger acne break­outs along with bad habits like sleep­ing in makeup. The same high-glycemic foods that trig­ger acne in teens can affect adults and tak­ing cer­tain med­ica­tions like steroids or anti­con­vul­sants may lead to an increase in acne break­outs as well.

What Are the Best Acne Treatments?

adult and teen Acne Acne treat­ments are not deter­mined by age but by the type of acne and its under­ly­ing cause. Both teen and adult acne can be treat­ed by the same means and these treat­ments are often more effec­tive when used in com­bi­na­tion with rou­tine skin­care and a healthy diet. Here are some of the top acne treat­ments rec­om­mend­ed by dermatologists:
  • Ben­zoyl Per­ox­ide – An over-the-counter acne treat­ment, ben­zoyl per­ox­ide helps pre­vent the growth of acne-caus­ing bac­te­ria. It comes in 2.5%, 5%, and 10% con­cen­tra­tions, typ­i­cal­ly as a cream, lotion, or gel, though it can also be found in med­icat­ed cleansers.
  • Aze­la­ic Acid – As a ker­a­tolyt­ic agent, aze­la­ic acid helps unclog blocked pores and may also reduce the swelling and red­ness asso­ci­at­ed with inflam­ma­to­ry acne. Top­i­cal aze­la­ic acid comes in var­i­ous forms includ­ing creams, lotions, liq­uids, gels, and wipes.
  • Top­i­cal Retinoids – This group of med­ica­tions work by increas­ing the rate of skin cell turnover, help­ing reduce the buildup of dead cells on the sur­face of the skin. One of the most well-known top­i­cal retinoids is tretinoin, avail­able in creams, lotions, and serums.
  • Antibi­otics – Because acne is often wors­ened by bac­te­ria, both top­i­cal and oral antibi­otics can be used to treat it. Top­i­cal clin­damycin helps reduce swelling and slows the growth of acne-caus­ing bac­te­ria while oral antibi­otics like tetra­cy­cline may be used for severe forms of acne.
  • Hor­mon­al Ther­a­pies – For cas­es of hor­mon­al acne, hor­mon­al ther­a­pies may be ben­e­fi­cial. Birth con­trol pills – par­tic­u­lar­ly those that con­tain both estro­gen and prog­estin – help bal­ance the body’s hor­mone lev­els to con­trol sebum pro­duc­tion and reduce acne breakouts.
The key to suc­cess with acne treat­ments is con­sis­ten­cy. Keep­ing your skin clean and fol­low­ing a dai­ly skin­care rou­tine can help keep sur­face oil in check, reduc­ing your risk for breakouts. Just keep in mind that dif­fer­ent forms of acne may respond bet­ter to dif­fer­ent treat­ments, so be pre­pared to under­go a lit­tle tri­al and error to find the treat­ment that works best for you.

Tips for Caring for Acne-Prone Skin

adult and teen Acne The treat­ment meth­ods dis­cussed above are your best bet for reduc­ing acne break­outs and heal­ing your skin. It will take time to cor­rect the under­ly­ing fac­tors trig­ger­ing your acne, but in the mean­time, there are cer­tain things you can do to keep your skin clean and clear.  Here are some sim­ple tips for car­ing for acne-prone skin:
  • Avoid squeez­ing or pick­ing at pim­ples – this can push the bac­te­ria fur­ther into your skin, mak­ing inflam­ma­tion worse and increas­ing your risk for scar­ring and redness.
  • Fol­low a dai­ly skin­care rou­tine of cleans­ing and mois­tur­iz­ing – it may also help to exfo­li­ate your skin two to three times per week.
  • Include acne-fight­ing ingre­di­ents like sal­i­cylic acid and gly­col­ic acid in your dai­ly skin­care rou­tine to help con­trol sur­face oil and remove dead skin cells.
  • Talk to your der­ma­tol­o­gist about teen acne treat­ments – pre­scrip­tion-strength ingre­di­ents like tretinoin and niaci­namide could help reduce breakouts.
  • Always remove make­up and wash your face before going to bed – sleep­ing in make­up can clog your pores and make acne worse.
  • Avoid pore-clog­ging ingre­di­ents like min­er­al oil and lano­lin as well as strip­ping ingre­di­ents like alco­hol that may cause your skin to pro­duce excess sebum.
Though teen and adult acne may be caused by dif­fer­ent fac­tors, the under­ly­ing issue is the same. Clogged pores lead to break­outs which have the poten­tial to neg­a­tive­ly impact your emo­tion­al and men­tal well-being. If you’re con­cerned about your acne, talk to your health­care provider about an indi­vid­u­al­ized acne treat­ment plan to start get­ting your break­outs under control.

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