By Skincare Junkie Inc

6 Questions You Wanted to Ask a Dermatologist about Adult Acne

Did you know that 85% of Americans will have acne at some point in their lives? American consumers spend $3 billion on acne medications every year. Whereas acne is known to be common among teenagers, cases of adult acne are on the rise, disproportionately affecting women in their 20s and 30s even if they’ve never had acne before. Some adults, mostly women, get acne well into their 40s and 50s, often as a result of hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause. 

Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skincare Junkie. She has treated many different skin issues in her practice, including acne. When Dr. Murphy-Rose noticed that her patients were struggling to find non-toxic, hypoallergenic skincare products, she created a line of safe, effective, easy-to-apply products that she could feel confident suggesting to her patients (and using herself!). And so Skincare Junkie was born. 

We’ve asked Dr Murphy-Rose to answer some of our readers’ burning questions about adult acne. 

What Is Acne? 

“Acne” is a broad term that includes pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, and more severe nodulocystic acne. Acne usually affects the T-zone — forehead, nose, chin — but may also appear elsewhere on the body, including scalp (ouch!). 

Fun fact — did you know that blackheads are dark in color because the clogged debris inside them turns black when exposed to air and oxidized?  

How does acne form? Different factors, for example, hormonal fluctuations and bacteria, can work together to cause its appearance. 

Certain hormones cause the oil-producing (sebaceous) glands in the skin to produce larger amounts of oil (sebum), which changes the activity of the usually harmless bacteria, causing inflammation. 

Hormones can also cause pores to enlarge, introducing bacteria. And the pores may become clogged from either accumulation of dead skin cells or from thickening of the inner lining of the hair follicles as a result of hormonal fluctuations. 

What Causes Acne? 

Factors that increase the likelihood of acne breakouts can be internal like hormonal triggers, genetics, and bacteria on the skin plus external factors such as unsuitable makeup, occlusive skincare products, and pollution and lifestyle factors including stress, consumption of alcohol, and dietary factors (dairy and sugar and excess B vitamins have been linked). 

Hormonal changes impact not only teenagers but also women — pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, external hormones like birth control, perimenopause, and menopause can all be associated. Stress, alcohol, dairy products (particularly skim milk), and sugar can worsen acne by leading to more inflammation, which can promote acne. 

Skincare, hair care, and makeup products may exacerbate acne. If you are acne-prone, read the product labels and look for products that contain at least one of these terms to reduce the risk of triggering breakouts from products: 

  • Non-comedogenic 
  • Non-acnegenic 
  • Oil-free 
  • Won’t clog pores 

What Does Non-Comedogenic Mean? 

Non-comedogenic means not pore-clogging. Comedogenic products are more likely to lead to pore congestion and acne breakouts. 

For example, Vitamin C is a well-known and well-documented antioxidant with anti-aging, collagen-boosting, and skin-brightening benefits. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that we cannot synthesize in our bodies, so we need to apply it topically. However, Vitamin C has poor shelf stability on its own, so it is very often formulated with vitamin E, or tocopherol, to extend its shelf life. The problem is that vitamin E (tocopherol) is highly comedogenic and can lead to breakouts. 

When choosing a skincare product that won’t lead to breakouts, look for oil-free formulations made without silicones. Those containing acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid may be especially helpful for preventing clogged pores. Avoid oils, lanolin, talc, parabens, and fragrance, as these can clog pores and trigger inflammation. 

Does Exfoliating Help? 

Yes. Exfoliation can help to keep skin more clear, to prevent breakouts, to reduce hyperpigmentation, and to smooth skin. Exfoliation helps to remove the dead outer skin cells that can contribute to clogging of pores. Exfoliation reduces the depth of pores which can make them less visible and appear smaller. It is important to note that over-exfoliation can lead to irritation, and actually worsen acne.

Dr Murphy-Rose recommends gentle exfoliation and choosing the right product. Chemical exfoliation with acids and enzymes is usually superior to manual exfoliation (like abrasive scrubs and loofahs) that can increase inflammation and cause micro-tears to form in the skin. 

Dr Murphy-Rose designed Skincare Junkie® Pore Therapy Daily Toner Pads to gently exfoliate skin, minimizing the appearance of pores and preventing breakouts, even on sensitive skin. Salicylic acid dissolves oil and debris inside your pores while treating and preventing acne, and a combination of multiple molecular weight hyaluronic acids and gluconolactone (PHA) exfoliates and hydrates—something not many acids can claim to do! 

What Is Salicylic Acid?  

If you are acne-prone like so many of us, salicylic acid may become your best friend. Look for this acne-fighting super ingredient to help manage and prevent breakouts.

This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) exfoliates pore-clogging outer skin cells and travels into pores to dissolve acne-promoting sebum and oils. Those with dry or sensitive skin should choose salicylic acid products with a lower concentration — around 0.5% or lower. 

What Do Dermatologists Recommend For Acne?

Mild acne can often improve with over-the-counter skincare products. Many factors can contribute to acne. If your acne is not resolving with over-the-counter treatments, it is best to have your skin evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist. Your dermatologist will take a medical history and learn more about your skin. A blood test may be recommended to assess your hormone levels or your skin swabbed to check the bacterial composition of your skin.

For acne that does not respond to OTC treatments, you may be recommended to take medications containing retinoids, salicylic acid, antibiotics, sulfur-based topicals, benzoyl peroxide, and/or oral medications like spironolactone or isotretinoin. 

You may also be advised to make lifestyle changes, such as stress management, getting enough sleep, reducing dairy and sugar intake, etc. Your dermatologist may also recommend other treatments. 

Drama Free Skincare 

The Skincare Junkie collection features clean, highly effective formulations that are easy to apply and use safe, non-toxic, clinically proven ingredients.

At Skincare Junkie, we are committed to creating innovative, effective, non-compromising skincare, and it is our mission to make healthy skincare fun. 

All of our products are pregnancy-safe, cruelty-free, and vegan. They are free of PEGs, parabens, SLS, sulfates, fragrance, phthalates, and other potentially harmful ingredients. We avoid all of the questionable ingredients that are lurking in your other products and can contribute to adult acne. Feed your need for healthy skin and get your drama-free skincare here!