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?
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
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.