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The Lipstick Page Forums Beauty & Fashion Blog
Adult Acne


Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Monday, April 25, 2005 12:41 PM (Eastern)

This is something I've lived with in one form or another, since 1995. It "started" when I was 29 years old; prior to that, I'd had the normal bout with acne as a teenager, then perfect skin for more than fifteen years.

I'm not the kind of person to sit and cry. I've always taken an interest in finding the root cause. That was my original interest in Internet beauty forums: I was looking for a cure, or, if there were none, a way to get my life back under control.

Acult acne is much, much harder to deal with than teenage acne. With the latter, you always knew it would end some day.

Adult acne is indefinite. There are a million expensive treatments for it, and no talk as to what exactly is causing it. It's not a world-wide phenomenon from what I've absorbed, over these past ten years of searching for answers. It is specific to American and Canadian women, with some fairly recent reports from Europe.

That indicates strongly that its cause is environmental. We're eating something that's causing it; we're taking medicine that's causing it; we're using products that cause it.

Anyhow...I would like to share what I've tried and what has and hasn't produced results, along with some advice derived from my six and a half years of reading, on various Internet boards, about others' experience with it.

Please note that I am not a doctor. This is mainly first-hand experience. When I include something that's observed, not first-hand, I will so note it.


Possible causes


Allergies: some people have reported food allergies, and allergies to specific substances such as parabens.

You would need to take a battery of tests to determine if your adult acne is caused by allergies.

Diet: I became suspicious about diet when I observed that the vast majority of adult acne posts on the beauty boards were from American and Canadian women. Why not Europe? What's the difference?

One factor could be genetically engineered foods. No one knows what kind of allergic reaction people could develop from being exposed to genes in contexts and levels they would never naturally be exposed to.

Another could be growth hormones added to meat. Europe bans certain growth hormones (and uses others, from what I can gather). Their justification for banning them is that they have not been tested in the way a real person, exposed to low levels of these hormones over their lifetime, would experience them.

Another could be antibiotics. Acne has a bacterial factor.

Another could be that the food we eat now is less nutritious, from being mass-produced. I've read theories that much adult acne is caused by a decline of certain nutrients in our diet.

Birth control: another factor could be the hormone-based birth control that we take.

I ran a poll on a board and found that hormone-based birth control figured into many women's memories of how their adult acne started. It was either starting a new pill or getting off an old one. (This is true of myself too.)


I'm a little less in love with the theories that are commonly spread around, that adult acne is "genetic" (I think only one woman who responded to the poll had any other relatives who had it; I certainly don't, and it's seldom mentioned on the boards) or caused by "hormones." How did the human race (or at least the American/Canadian part of it) suddenly develop "hormones" over the past five or ten years?

Possible treatments


The first step is to determine whether you have cystic acne or not. If you do, my advice is to immediately book an appointment with a dermatologist.

Dermatologists in the U.S. are wired one way: they have little interest in preventing acne, and much interest in prescribing prescription medications to treat it. For cystic acne, you are dealing with something serious. So while you're figuring out possible causes, you will need to be under the care of a dermatologist.

The second thing to look at, is your birth control. If you're taking hormone-based birth control and you have adult acne, it may be well to try a different pill or method.

I've been on Yasmin for almost three years (see my Adult Acne Blog, written under my former pen name Josephine). It has helped, a lot.

Ortho-Tricyclen also helped; I switched mainly because my HMO stopped covering Ortho.

Other pills have been a disaster. My personal advice is to give any pill one month. If you're living in acne hell at the end of that one month, then switch.

The third thing to change is your diet.

There are some companies that sell "skin vitamins" such as Murad or Oil of Olay. I haven't tried them; I did a lot of research on the Net for articles mentioning a connection between nutrients and acne.

Make sure that the vitamins you end up taking, are safe for you if you are pregnant or could become pregnant.

Do not mortgage the house to buy skin vitamins. They're vitamins. There is no such thing as a magic vitamin that only one company manufactures. High doses of vitamins can be dangerous on top of it all.

But do look into vitamins. My skin has gotten much better...to the point that I can basically forget that I have acne...by taking Yasmin and a special multi-vitamin (the latter are not all the same; do the research and consult your doctor as to what is safe to take).

Try reducing the amount of regular, growth-hormone produced meat and dairy products that you eat.

Try reducing the amount of garbage food, such as fast food, soda, junk food, etc. that you eat.

Try to integrate as much fresh salads as you can into your diet.

Some of these things...reducing the hormone-produced meat, for example, can produce almost immediate results. I know when I've eaten that Pizza Hut pizza; for a few days afterward, my skin will react. It's still worth it to eat Pizza Hut once in a while but you have to have a grip on cause and effect with acne, in order to not feel as if your skin breaks out when the wind blows in the wrong direction?


Okay, so you've booked your derm appointment for cystic acne if applicable.

You have examined your birth control method and experimented enough so that you've found something that at least does not aggravate your acne, and possibly something that helps (you will see results one way or the other during that one-month trial period).

You have investigated possible food or substance allergies.

You have overhauled your diet to include a multi-vitamin, more fresh salads, minimal exposure to hormone-produced foods, cut out that soda, and so forth.

These things should help.

As far as topical treatments or topical causes, I really don't believe in that. Back in my perfect skin days, yes, I would get clogged pores when I got lazy and didn't wash out my powder puff frequently enough. That's it. I ate crap and slept in my makeup. These things do not cause acne.

Any topical treatment strong enough to penetrate skin deeply enough to affect acne, also destroys your skin. Differin would be a prime example. It's excellent as a spot treatment though.

Unless you have an allergy to a specific substance, there is no such thing as "this product is breaking me out"--unless it is a product you apply to only one part of your face or body, and only that part is breaking out.

I've seen this many times on different boards--does this product cause breakouts? I suppose a few of them do. But does your acne go away if you stop using this product? In my case--nope. I've gone without foundation or powder...doesn't prevent acne.

I look forward to updating these posts as more information about adult acne arrives.

Colleen Shirazi continues to blog here: Life of Colleen
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