Adult female acne is actually very common. There are many causes, known and unknown. Genetic factors and hormonal changes are the most common. But there are other things that can cause flares of acne such as facial and hair products, sweating in areas of occlusion and environmental changes such as weather or lots of traveling. Occasionally, some medications (such as steroids) can cause acne. Stress can also cause flares, but this is probably due to hormonal changes. Believe it or not and despite lots of claims out there, there are no consistent studies that show that any specific foods cause acne, and most make-ups these days (except for some costume make-ups) are not acne-provoking (non-comedogenic). Despite the lack of evidence linking diet and acne, some people feel strongly that diet is, in fact, associated with their acne.
My next posts will be devoted to discussing different treatment options. In the meantime, my strong advice is to think carefully about your acne in relation to the factors mentioned above, as well as other things you may think are causing your acne. Before trying over the counter acne medications, make any lifestyle changes you feel are contributing to your acne. Because of the weeks to months of delay in provoking acne, the association between these factors is sometimes difficult to pinpoint. But most of us don’t have the patience to take this on or can’t bear the thought of struggling with acne through this trouble shooting period and just want treatment. And that is o.k. too since most women’s acne is genetic and hormonal, remember :), and there’s typically nothing you can change about these factors.
Another thing to think about is where your acne occurs. For instance, does it mostly affect your hairline, back & chest, jawline, areas that are under occlusion from hats or clothing, or areas near where you use hair products, etc.? Does the acne occur all month long or does it cycle with your period? Is it better or worse in the summer? When did it start? What seems to make it better or worse? Is it worse during times of stress? Does your acne consist primarily of little skin-colored bumps, small pink pimples or pustules, or deep tender cysts?
Being able to answer these things will help your dermatologist better manage your acne if you’re not able to treat it yourself. A good dermatologist will base your treatment not only on how the acne looks, but also on the information you provide at a consult. And take heart, even dermatologists get acne—I’ve had intermittent acne several times over the course of my adult life after nursing my four children, and I’ve even had to give up some beloved hair products as well! During the next posts I will talk to you about the steps you should take at home and when it’s time to see your dermatologist for prescription treatments.