Advertisements for many acne products give the impression that getting rid of or preventing acne is simply a matter of keeping your skin clean. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
First of all, not all acne is the same. Adult (chronic) acne is not the same as acne experienced in teen years. And occasional breakouts may pop up because of factors that have nothing to do with your skin care regime—like stress or diet. As a result, many of the commonly known acne “remedies” may not work. The key to maintaining a healthy, clear complexion is understanding what’s causing your acne and treating the source of the problem.
Commonly accepted skin health “lore” tells us that there are two main causes of acne:
Actually, these two causes are interconnected. Oil builds up in the pores, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. The body’s immune response to the bacterial presence creates spots of inflammation—red bumps—i.e., zits, some of which may be tender to the touch and some that may be filled with clear or whitish-yellow liquid (pus).
That seems pretty straightforward, but acne is more complicated than that. The oil buildup that seemingly incites the bacterial infection doesn’t just happen. It is the result of hormones. Particularly in the teenage years, increased hormone production leads to an increased production of sebum—an oily substance your body naturally produces to ensure that your skin is an effective barrier against the environment.
But after the teenage years, hormones still play a large part in the presence of acne, but their role seems more complex than just instigating an overproduction of sebum. Hormone imbalances are commonly behind chronic adult acne, which often presents as cystic acne—painful (sometimes itchy) pus-filled cysts that are often larger than typical zits. However, adult acne is not as well understood as teenage acne, and sufferers do not just “grow out” of hormone imbalances without treatment.
Complicating matters even further, hormones respond to other factors—e.g., stress and diet. Consequently, adults may experience acute acne outbreaks during stressful periods or as a result of less-than-optimal dietary choices (most commonly a diet high in fats and/or sugars).
Different parts of the body are mapped to different body systems. Because acne is an indication of hormonal imbalance, where it presents on the body can provide insight into what body systems may be experiencing imbalance. For instance, breakouts on the forehead may indicate digestive issues, particular issues in the small intestine and liver. Breakouts on chin and jaw, however, are connected with reproductive health.
Many products, and even many skin care professionals, make it sound like combating acne is easy—keep your skin clean, use skincare products like benzoyl peroxide or our Dermist GSL Cleanser to keep problem areas under control. Our Dermist GSL Cleanser is 20% off this month!
While these strategies are often effective for teen acne, and may provide some help for acute adult acne breakouts, they are typically inadequate for sufferers of chronic adult acne.
To see noticeable results, adult acne sufferers may need nutritional or other drug therapies to effectively correct hormone imbalances and/or dietary deficiencies. In other words, to get proper acne treatment, chronic adult acne sufferers need to consult with their dermatologist and primary care physician (and maybe even a nutritionist) to identify and address the hormonal imbalance at play.