If you lived with acne as a teenager, you probably heard all sorts of advice about why you developed acne and what you should do about it. “You eat too many potato chips!” “You don’t wash your face enough!” “Cut down on the chocolate!”
The fact is that most of what you thought you knew about acne as a teen — and much of what you may think you know about adult acne — is probably a myth. Here are some common acne myths.
There are many reasons you can break out as an adult. Stress or changes in your hormone levels, like menopause or switching or stopping birth control pills, are two possibilities. Some medications, including lithium, anti-seizure drugs, and corticosteroids, can cause acne.
No one factor causes acne. Acne happens when oil (sebaceous) glands are activated at puberty, stimulated by male hormones from the adrenal glands in both boys and girls. Oil is a natural substance which lubricates and protects the skin. Under certain circumstances, cells that are close to the surface block the openings of sebaceous glands and cause a buildup of oil underneath. This oil stimulates bacteria, which live in everyone’s skin and generally cause no problems, to multiply and cause surrounding tissues to become inflamed.
If the inflammation is right near the surface, you get a pustule; if it’s deeper, a papule (pimple); deeper still and it’s a cyst. If the oil breaks through to the surface, the result is a “whitehead.” If the oil becomes oxidized (that is, acted on by oxygen in the air), the oil changes from white to black, and the result is a “blackhead.”
Creams containing a vitamin A derivative can help clear your skin and also lessen wrinkles.
Medications that affect hormones, like birth control pills, can help control acne. You might also discuss antibiotic pills and prescription retinoids with a dermatologist. There are also antibiotics that are effective.
Don’t pop pimples. Doing so can lead to increased infection and scarring. Sweat does not cause acne, however an increased buildup of bacteria after exercise can compound the problem. On the other hand, excessive washing can dry and irritate the skin. Wash your face no more than twice a day. Use cool or warm water and a gentle cleanser. Use your hands, a baby washcloth (it’s gentler than a regular one), or a cleansing brush for 30 seconds, the pat (don’t rub) your skin dry. Acne can be a very distressing condition, your best bet is seeking the advice of a doctor in dealing with it.
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