The acne of your teen years has an ugly medical name: Acne
vulgaris. That's to distinguish it from acne rosacea -- more often called
rosacea. But regular old acne isn't just for kids; adults can get it, too.
"Adult acne is a very common problem, but an under-recognized
one," says Jeffrey Weinberg, MD, director of clinical research at St.
Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York. "Acne can occur later in
life. It can be one or both types. People think it doesn't happen in adults,
but it does."
At the heart of acne lies the pimple -- what doctors call a
comedo. It's a plug of fat, skin debris, and keratin (the stuff nails, hair,
and skin are made of) stuck in a hair duct. When it's open, we call it a
blackhead. When it's closed over, we call it a whitehead. Whiteheads often
cause the walls of the hair duct to rupture. This leads to redness, infection,
and the papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts of acne.
Boys are more likely to suffer acne scarring than girls. But
girls are more likely to have adult acne.
Nearly everybody thinks that acne results from poor hygiene.
That's just not so. Adult acne and teen acne are caused by a combination
of several factors: hormones leading to excess oil secretion, faulty closing of
the hair duct, and infection. Gentle face washing twice a day is much better
than more frequent washing.
When adult acne is treated in a doctor's office it's called
"acne surgery". When done at home, it's called squeezing pimples. It gets
immediate results -- but when you squeeze pimples at home, you are begging for
infection and scars. And squeezing or picking at pimples is a great way to get
your acne to spread. Don't do it! Doctors use a special sterile instrument to
prevent scarring, infection, and acne spread.