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Acne Health Center

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Acne ... Again?

Just when you thought your "bad skin" days were over, adult acne strikes. Fight back with adult-strength treatment.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's not fair. Just when you've successfully navigated the ravages of adolescence on your skin, you wake up and find acne. What can you do?

As most dermatologists will tell you, "bad" skin isn't just for teens. The good news is that new treatments are now available to help fight adult acne.

The Problem

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 andteen 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.

The Solution

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.

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