Get rid of adult acne once and for all.
Once puberty had come and gone, I thought my pimples had followed my prom dress into the back closet. But the joke was on me. At 31, days after giving birth, my face began breaking out in a freak show that could rival any teenager’s.
Apparently, adults get acne too. In the October 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), researchers reported that 54 percent of women and 40 percent of men surveyed had facial acne and they didn’t see it diminish until they turned, on average, 44.
What’s more, adults don’t suffer those zits in silence—they demand treatment advice. An online survey conducted in February 2008 by Harris International found that two-thirds of dermatologists reported that they currently see more adult acne patients than they did a year ago and the mature set now represents nearly half of their acne caseload.
Why so many pimples in the over-30 mix? The answer involves a complex jumble of hormonal, dietary, and environmental triggers that blend into a recipe for breakouts at any age.
Harsh treatments debunked
When it comes to pimples, people tend to think that dirty, oily skin is the main instigator, so the first instinct is to scrub those big, ugly whiteheads with abrasive cleansers and daub on harsh chemicals such as the benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid found in many over-the-counter acne remedies. Big mistake.
“Certain soaps contain surfactants, which strip away the ‘good oils’ along with the ‘bad,’” says herbalist and aromatherapist Barbara Close, president and founder of Naturopathica.
Harsh cleansing devitalizes skin—and it backfires. The skin struggles to rebalance the outer lipid layer by pumping out more oil to make up for the loss. That means more breakouts. And more acne lasting later in life.
Add up the damage over time, and you get premature aging. “I have so many patients tell me, ‘I cannot believe I am dealing with acne and wrinkles at the same time,’ ” says Richard Fried, MD, PhD, author of Healing Adult Acne (New Harbinger, 2005). The psychological effects can be so devastating, he notes, that 34 percent of acne sufferers sink into depression (see “Beyond Vanity: Acne Dysmorphia” below).
Perhaps a few lessons in how acne works will help you avoid this scenario and give you gentler, more holistic ways to counter future outbreaks.
Acne Treatment Mask
To deeply clean and tighten the pores, try the following:
- Juice from half a lemon, strained
- 1 egg white
Beat together the egg white and lemon juice. Apply directly to your face, avoiding your eyes, and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse your face with warm water. The lemon acts as a potent astringent, and egg whites have a firming effect.
Beyond Vanity: Acne Dysmorphia
No one covets a complexion dotted with zits, but when someone starts to obsess about bumps and blemishes, she may have developed a mental condition called acne dysmorphia. Like anorexia nervosa, acne dysmorphia spurs a love affair with the mirror—and sometimes a deep plunge into depression. When a person starts withdrawing from friends, family, and fun, the time for help has come. “This is real stuff,” says psychologist and dermatologist Richard Fried. A person with acne dysmorphia needs mental health treatment, which may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). First created to treat depression, CBT works with the premise that negative thinking motivates negative actions and vice versa. The therapy works with both the thoughts (such as “No one loves me because my face looks this way”) and the behaviors (e.g. “I refuse to leave the house during the daytime so no one will see me”). This approach can help a woman with such a distorted body image move toward self-acceptance. To find out more about CBT and to locate a practitioner near you, go to www.nacbt.org.