Acne is no fun to deal with at any age, but it can be especially frustrating as an adult. For one, it’s a lot harder to pinpoint the cause of adult acne since, as we age, our skin becomes more sensitive. Serious or not, adult acne can be a result of any combination of hard-to-track triggers, like hormones, hydration levels, diet, stress, and even the products we use. Plus, older skin won’t respond the same way to the acne products you relied on as a teen and is more prone to scarring. Yikes!
If you’re dealing with constant breakouts and can’t seem to get your skin under control, you’re not alone. Instead of popping and picking your skin (please, please don’t!), it might be time to see a dermatologist. To get the inside scoop about what it’s like to see a dermatologist in regards to adult acne, we spoke to Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist with over 40 years’ experience. Armed with her expert advice and the right treatment plan, clear skin IS possible. Here’s what what we learned.
Exfoliation is key
The only way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your topical skincare routine is to start it off with proper exfoliation. Of course, exfoliation can also work to brighten your skin, unclog pores, and minimize scarring. For a professional-level exfoliating treatment you can do in the comfort of your own home, try Flash Forward from Free Agent Skincare* — a two-in-one physical and chemical exfoliation treatment mask.
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Be sure to read labels
According to Dr. Loretta, most acne will respond (at least in part) to many over-the-counter products. At the same time, your skincare routine could be causing more breakouts and certain ‘acne treatments’ can make you red and irritated. Steer clear of benzoyl peroxide, she says, as well as cinnamon, Moroccan oil, and mint oils, artificial fragrance, and sulfates (a common foaming agent in cleansers) and always use a sulfate-free cleanser to wash your face. You should also use a sulfate-free shampoo if you can, since much of it ends up on your hairline. Read labels on all the products you use on your face and your hair and try not to use heavy makeup, as well as creamy conditioners and shampoos.
The Pill is not always the problem (or the solution)
When we asked Dr. Loretta if the Pill can cause or clear acne, she responded that, “Women’s reactions to the oral contraceptive run the gamut from no reaction to clearer skin to getting acne from the Pill. Since the Pill mimics pregnancy levels of hormones in our body, you can sometimes tell how your skin will react to the pill if you have been pregnant – this will usually be the same reaction.” In her own practice, she doesn’t generally put women on the Pill for acne unless they know that there’s a particular pill they’ve used previously that kept them clear. As for whether or not you should see a dermatologist about acne while pregnant or breastfeeding, she says, “Only one that deals specifically with acne in pregnancy or breastfeeding. Screen the practice before you make the appointment. Also, some good OB/GYNs or Family Medicine physicians will also treat this successfully.”
Acne IS stress-related
A good dermatologist will work with you to find the cause of your acne and may ask you to try and eliminate certain triggers like dairy, sulfates, and most commonly, stress. Dr. Loretta confirmed to us that stress is a big contributing factor to adult acne and your treatment plan may involve adding yoga classes or meditation to your schedule.
Don’t be ashamed to see your doctor
If you can’t clear your stubborn acne on your own, it isn’t tied to your menstrual cycle, and you notice scarring, go see a dermatologist. Adult acne is actually the most common form of acne and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your derm may recommend over-the-counter topical treatments like salicylic acid or retinol, prescription topicals like Tretinoin (a prescription retinol) or topical antibiotics, or oral antibiotics like Minocycline or Doxycycline may also be used to clear existing cystic acne.
This post was in partnership with Free Agent Skincare, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.