When you were a teenager, didn’t you think that at some point you would no longer have to deal with acne? You probably thought it was all about hormones and soon after puberty ended it would go away forever. Yup, I did too.
Unfortunately, acne can affect people far into adulthood. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million to 50 million Americans. This means that almost 85% of the population will have acne in their lifetime.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak about this topic with Dr. Amy Wechsler, a well-known New York-based dermatologist and psychiatrist (one of only two in the nation), who treats skin from the inside out. Dr. Wechsler let me in on a few secrets about the relationship between our mind and our skin. Here are her thoughts:
Is adult acne something that comes from the outside (such as environmental triggers) or is it something that comes from within (hormones, diet)?
The origin of acne is more complicated than oily skin, pollution, or a “bad” diet. At the root of virtually all acne is stress and inflammation. While stress is the central cause, acne can be exacerbated by hormones, genetics, and other factors.
Why do some women not “grow out” of issues with acne? Why do others begin to have acne in adulthood?
More than half of women over the age of 25 have adult acne and stress is often the main culprit. It turns on inflammatory pathways which result in breakouts.
Adult acne is just like any other acne and is rooted in stress. While other factors such as medications, products, and hormones can make matters worse, the cause of acne is the same in adulthood as it was before then. It can seem worse because at this age, women are less suspecting of acne.
What are some of the best treatment options for women in their 30’s and 40’s who are suffering from adult acne? How do treatments for women differ from treatments used for girls and younger adults, if at all?
Rather than adjust your acne treatment by age, you should treat the kind of breakouts you have. A good treatment for women in their 30’s and 40’s is a topical retinoid like tretinoin in a low concentration cream. On the plus side, it can help eradicate fine lines.
What types of dietary restrictions or recommendations do you have for women suffering from acne?
Again, diet has little to do with the cause of acne, but it’s always important to maintain a balanced diet. The best thing to do is fill your diet on foods that help maintain your cortisol level (cortisol is a stress hormone). Also, foods rich in magnesium, which helps reduce an over-active stress response system.
What other advice do you have for women suffering from acne?
Focus on reducing stress in your life by getting enough sleep (7.5 hours+ or enough to feel refreshed the next day), meditating, exercising, or treating yourself every once and a while.
Also, maintaining a balanced diet and a simple facial regimen. A lot can be done just by mastering the basics of beauty. Washing your face twice a day with a simple, gentle cleanser, using 2 good moisturizers (one with SPF 30+ for day, and another for night), and, if necessary, any exfoliators or anti-acne formulas/retinoids/wrinkle creams/antioxidant serums. And be sure to use a separate towel for your face (and wash it often to prevent bacteria build up!).
So control your stress and your skin will thank you.
Dr. Wechsler, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection, is a graduate of Duke University with an M.D. from Cornell University Medical College. She is a member of The American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, the Women’s Dermatologic Society, the American Psychiatric Association, the Independent Doctors of New York, the Physician Scientific Society, and The Skin Cancer Foundation.
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