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Acne health centre

Adult acne tips

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

"Dealing with acne and wrinkles on the same face, at the same time doesn't seem fair," says 38 year old Polly.

Polly had some acne as a teen and started getting flare-ups in her late twenties. "It was at its worse usually around my period. I would call in sick at work or would cover my face with inches of make up to hide the acne. My days were totally governed by the state of my skin," she adds.

It's true while acne is often thought of as a teenage problem there are plenty of adults who have break-outs. The NHS estimates that around 5% of women and 1% of men have acne when they are over the age of 25.

At whatever age, acne can be a distressing condition to deal with. A survey of more than 2,000 people by the British Skin Foundation (BSF) suggested that for 95% of those with acne, the skin condition had a big impact on their daily lives, affecting their confidence and mental state.

"Acne can cause psychological disturbance, impact on quality of life and lead to low self-esteem," according to Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and BSF spokesperson. "As it's largely still viewed as a teenage disease it can lead to social anxiety in adult sufferers who feel they should have grown out of it by the time they are a bit older. Adults with acne may find they don't get the support they require."

What causes acne?

Acne is a common skin condition characterised by comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and pustules (pus-filled spots).

It develops when dead skin cells and natural oils block up hair follicles in the skin.

"The oil-producing glands of people who get acne are particularly sensitive to normal blood levels of certain hormones, which are present in both men and women," says Matt Gass spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists. "These cause the glands to produce an excess of oil. At the same time, the dead skin cells lining the pores are not shed properly and clog up the follicles. These two effects result in a build-up of oil, producing blackheads and whiteheads."

The swelling, redness and formation of red or pus filled spots is triggered by the acne bacterium which lives on everyone's skin and that usually causes no problems. In those prone to acne the build-up of oil creates an ideal environment in which these bacteria can multiply.

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