An estimated 40 million to 50 million Americans are affected by some form of
acne, and not just teenagers. Although up to 80% of people aged 11 to 30 say
they've been affected, it turns out that many of us, particularly women, have
acne in our late 30s and even into our 50s, says Jenny J. Kim, MD, PhD,
associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los
Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine.
"Sometimes it is hard for patients dealing with acne to understand why, even
She's tried almost every drug on the market, from Retin-A to Cleocin T to
tetracycline, not to mention all the drugstore lotions and potions she's
lathered her skin with. But nothing can take back the feelings of
unattractiveness and self-doubt, the devastating days when merely leaving the
house was difficult.
Like Specter, many women are battling acne into their adult years -- and
feeling frustrated about it. And increasingly, many of them are trying a new
approach, one that goes beyond the traditional treatments such as retinoids,
benzoyl peroxides, and antibiotics: They are using the birth control pill to
For Specter, hormone manipulation (which is how the pill works) became an
option several years ago, when she got involved in a serious relationship and
wanted both birth control and a new acne treatment. After talking with her
doctor, she decided to start taking Ortho Tri-Cyclen, a birth control pill
that's shown some success in treating adult acne. Ortho Tri-Cyclen reduces
androgens (male hormones) and regulates a woman's hormones so their swings
aren't as severe and don't throw a woman's body -- and complexion -- into flux.
While all women have some level of androgens, an excessive amount can lead to
Women and Acne: The Painful Truth
The number of women (and men) who struggle with acne well into their 20s and
30s is huge. In fact, a study published in the October 1999 issue of the
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatologyfound that of 749 adults
between the ages of 25 and 58, 54% of women and 40% of men suffered from some
form of acne. What's more, the prevalence of adult acne in both sexes did not
decrease substantially until after the age of 44.
That acne is a teenager's disease is just one of the misconceptions
associated with the condition. Another is that dirt and oil on the skin cause