Acne affects around 80% of people at some time in their life, it is usually thought of as a teenager’s affliction, however many people are suffering well into their 30s. In fact, adult acne has been on the rise in recent years with half of women naming it as their primary skin concern, according to one study.
Getting spots as an adult can be especially frustrating – just when you think you should be focusing your skincare on the first signs of ageing, and spots appear! It can make choosing skincare products a minefield as you don’t know which concern to address.
So why are we dealing with this double injustice of spots and wrinkles and what can we do about it? The rise in adult acne is thought to be down to environmental factors such as stress, poor diet and pollution – this is good news, as it means we can make changes to our lifestyle to help clear up our skin.
Background – What is Acne?
Acne is caused by over activity of the sebaceous glands that secrete natural oils, called sebum onto the skin. The sebaceous glands of people who suffer with acne appear to be more sensitive the hormone testosterone, which triggers the glands to produce sebum. At the same time, dead skin cells lining the openings of hair follicles may not be shed efficiently. These two effects combined cause clogging of the hair follicles, which causes blackheads and spots to form.
The build-up of oil creates an ideal environment for a bacterium called Propionibacterium acnes to grow. These bacteria normally live harmlessly on everyone’s skin but when this ‘ideal’ environment is created, they multiply. They feed off sebum and produce substances that cause an inflammatory response, inflaming the skin and creating the ‘angry’ redness and swelling associated with spots.
Experts agree that stress is playing a role in the increase in adult acne. Women themselves also report getting more spots during more stressful times. Stress stimulates the adrenal glands which cause hormones such as testosterone to be released resulting in overproduction of sebum. Stress related spots tend to be on the jaw, neck and temples.
Contraceptives, pregnancy, poor diet, stress and certain health conditions can lead to disruptions in the fine balance of hormones in the body. Hormonal spots tend to be focused around the chin and upper lip areas. If spots are accompanied by increased body hair, irregular periods and weight gain it could be a sign of a condition called PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which affects around 5-10% of women. There is no ‘cure’ but the condition can be effectively managed through changes to diet and lifestyle such as cutting down on sugar.
Toxin Build up
The liver is the main detoxification organ of the body, its job is to break down toxins from the diet and unwanted substances such as old hormones for elimination from the body. When the liver is not working optimally, it can result in a host of problems, including hormone imbalances and skin problems such as acne, psoriasis or dull, tired looking skin.
The digestive system is also important with its role of removing waste from the body. Slow digestion will also result in toxins remaining in the body for longer, which is not great for health in general, and can manifest as skin breakouts.
Deficiencies of essential nutrients, insufficient fibre and excess sugar in the diet can all exacerbate acne. Fluctuating blood sugar levels caused by sugary foods lead to high levels of insulin being produced, which is an inflammatory hormone and can disrupt the balance of other hormones in the body, causing sebum glands to go into overdrive.
Clear Skin Diet
Although diet can visibly improve your skin, it’s essential that you follow the right beauty ritual daily. Don’t ever skip the morning and night cleansing routine and use light-textured moisturizers to avoid adding extra oil to your skin. Regular exfoliation removes dead cells that may clog pores, and a purifying mask with salicylic acid once a week ensures deep skin detoxification.