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Acne Health Center

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Adult Acne Is Treatable

WebMD Feature

Have you ever looked in the mirror and declared, “I should not have wrinkles and pimples on the same face!” If so, you’re not alone. Acne: it isn’t just for teenagers. In fact, many people are plagued by adult acne into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s.

According to a survey done by dermatologists at the University of Alabama-Birmingham:

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10 Tips for Preventing Acne

1. Keep your face clean. Whether or not you have acne, it's important to wash your face twice daily to remove impurities, dead skin cells, and extra oil from your skin's surface. Washing more often than twice daily is not necessarily better; it may do more harm than good. Use warm, not hot, water and a mild facial cleanser. Using a harsh soap (like deodorant body soap) can hurt the already inflamed skin and cause more irritation. Avoid scrubbing your skin harshly with a washcloth, exfoliating...

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  • In their 20s, 50.9% of women and 42.5% of men in their 20s reported experiencing adult acne
  • In their 30s, 35.2% of women and 20.1% of men reported adult acne
  • In their 40s, 26.3% of women and 12% of men reported experiencing acne
  • Even in their 50s, 15.3% of women and 7.3% of men reported experiencing acne

You may have noticed something about those numbers: they’re much higher in women than in men. That is probably because at any age, acne is hormonally related, and the fluctuations of a woman’s cycle can trigger breakouts.

How does adult acne differ from teen acne?

Adult acne differs markedly from the pimples of your teen years, both in how it appears and how it’s treated.

“In teens, you’ll mostly see hundreds or thousands of tiny bumps, blackheads, or whiteheads on the skin of the face, especially the forehead, along with occasional cysts on the chest and back,” says Amy Derick, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, who practices in Great Barrington, Ill. “That’s because teens’ skin tends to be a little stickier and they’re more likely than adults to get clogged pores.”

In adults, acne is more likely to appear on the lower part of the face, especially around the mouth and jawline. “It’s usually deeper nodules or red papules in those areas,” Derick says. “The fine little bumps of teen acne can still happen in adulthood, but it’s much less common.”

What can adults do about acne?

If you’re troubled by more than the occasional breakout, don’t try to treat yourself at the skin-care aisle of the local pharmacy.

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