Updated: Jun 30
We all grew up believing some sort of beauty myths. Mine were that if you shave your legs, your hair will go back thicker, if you touch a frog you’ll get warts on your hands, and you only get acne when you’re a teenager.
When I was a teenager, I had acne. Back then, Accutane had just come out on the market. We didn’t know as much about the side effects other than it would dry out every orifice of your body, and if you got pregnant there was a high risk that it would cause birth defects. But no big deal, right? WRONG! It worked for me for a long time though. Fast forward about 30 years to now, and I find myself staring in the mirror asking myself, “How did my face get back here? It’s back to when I was breaking out with cystic acne on my cheeks and chin!” Luckily, now I have a little more knowledge and the tools to help myself without having to potentially damage my internal organs from taking strong medications. If you’re experiencing adult acne, continue reading for clues on what could be causing it, and tips on how to help yourself.
Let's start by defining the different types of acne:
Blackheads and Whiteheads: This is a non-inflammatory type of acne caused when the follicles are blocked with dead skin, oil, and/or bacteria.
Inflammatory Acne: Pustules, papules, and nodules caused by inflammation from bacteria that gets trapped in your pores.
Cystic: Deep painful cysts.
Adult acne is generally caused by three things you probably already know - hormones, stress, and diet. Uggggh, I hate these things!
Just like when you’re a teenager your hormones are probably the main cause of your concerns. Even though this mostly applies to women, hormones can also be the cause of adult acne for men. Whether you’re still having your period, broaching menopause, or have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hormonal fluctuations cause breakouts. This is no secret. Hormonal breakouts are normally caused because of the rise of androgen levels, which in turn can also increase oil production.
A couple of things regarding hormonal breakouts: if you don’t mind taking medication - oral contraceptives or spironolactone can certainly help alleviate your acne. Oral contraceptives can slow the production of androgens, which slows oil production. Spironolactone is a medication typically prescribed for people with high blood pressure who are retaining too much fluid. However, dermatologists often prescribe it for its effectiveness in clearing acne. If you’re experiencing deep, cystic jawline breakouts, spironolactone could be especially helpful. I’m not a medical professional, so always be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of both and whether this would be a good option for you.
As if life isn’t stressful enough, now you’re also stressing about your dang skin issues. Being stressed out cannot directly cause acne, but it can raise your stress hormone levels (cortisol), which in turn causes you to produce more oil. I can sit here and tell you to lower your stress levels, but I know that’s easier said than done. And, I don’t think that I need to go through the things you can do to lower stress levels. You all know deep breaths and meditation are good things to do to help you feel more calm. But for the heck of it, let’s just try it, “Okay everyone, now take a deep breath…and poof…your acne is gone.” 😐
Diet (eye roll)
When you’re hormonal, you want to eat foods that are bad for you. When you’re stressed you want to eat foods that are bad for you. And if you just don’t care about your diet, then you’re probably eating foods that are bad for you. Normally, the cause of acne from food comes from foods that are high on the glycemic index (carbs), sugar, and dairy. Basically all of the good stuff. All of these foods can cause inflammation which triggers breakouts. Foods that fight acne? Complex carbs like quinoa and legumes. Food rich in vitamins A, C, and E. Also, omega 3s, turmeric, and zinc.
Additionally, taking a probiotic is crucial for clearing acne. Probiotics contain live microorganisms that help to maintain healthy bacteria in your gut, which will also calm systemic inflammation. I should do a whole other blog post about gut health and skin issues. They say that 80% (!!!!!) of your immune system is in your gut. So, if your digestive tract isn’t healthy, then your immune system and your hormones aren’t functioning properly. Not only can this cause acne, but several other inflammatory skin issues, like psoriasis and eczema.
Another useful (and, for some, out of the box) tool to figure out acne and other skin issues is Chinese face mapping. Besides the common problems that cause acne, stated above, Chinese medicine believes that imbalances with internal organs will result in blemishes on your face. If you’ve been trying to clear acne with traditional methods, but still having issues, the root cause could be caused by something you haven’t considered. Check out the diagram below for some insight.
And of course, I would be remiss not to mention the importance of an at-home skin care regime and seeing an esthetician for facials. You should be diligent about coming in for monthly facials or chemical peels every 3 to 4 weeks when you’re trying to control acne. This may seem extreme, but the key is to beat your cell turnover cycle, which normally happens around every 28-ish days. However, acne sufferers produce more dead skin cells, and those dead cells are not properly shedding. Estheticians have the tools and professional products to help encourage a more aggressive exfoliation (like chemical peels), and will give you facial treatment that provides a deeper cleanse than what you can do at home on your own.
For your at-home regime, retinol is a must and is considered the gold standard for cell turnover. Try any of the retinol treatments available in our online shop to put the process in fast-forward. A pH balanced cleanser is key to help clean the skin without striping it of its natural oils. A client favorite is Cleansing Complex from iS Clinical. And for those stubborn, under the skin pimples, try using the Killa Kit (clarifying micro-dart patches) from ZitSticka. These little babies work like magic!
Signing off for now, sweet babes.
Peace, love, & prayers for clearer skin!