Acne is an infamous teenage scourge. The Nemours Children's Health Network explains that nearly 80 percent of adolescents are plagued by pimples. Some just get a few, while others have severe outbreaks. Sometimes the problem clears up in adulthood, but sometimes it hangs on. It can even disappear for years before more pimples crop up later in life.
The normal time frame for acne is during adolescence, because natural hormonal changes in puberty make the skin produce more sebum, a type of lubricating oil. This combines with dead skin cells to clog hair follicles, according to the Mayo Clinic, resulting in a pimple. Bacteria sometimes joins the mix, making the outbreak worse. Acne usually decreases or disappears after puberty, but some adults continue to get pimples. Women are more affected than men because of cosmetic use, pregnancy and monthly hormone fluctuations linked to menstruation. The Acne.org information site states that both sexes can have problems because bacteria becomes resistant to typical treatments over time.
Adult acne can occur at any age, from the early 20s through the 40s and even beyond. According to Acne.org, 25 percent of men and 50 percent of women struggle with pimples in adulthood. Women may get it around menopause as their hormones change. Hormone replacement therapy may also cause acne outbreaks. The Menopause Insight website explains this type of acne generally occurs between ages 45 and 60.
Acne manifests itself in adults the same way it does in teenagers. According to the Mayo Clinic, blackheads and whiteheads grow from clogged hair follicles. Blackheads have an opening, while whiteheads are closed. Papules are small, sore red bumps, while pustules are pus-filled and have a head. Nodules are large, solid bumps, while cysts are even larger and pus-filled. Cysts are the worst type of acne lesion because they may cause scars.
Adults can treat acne with the same over-the-counter remedies used by teenagers, including wipes and creams with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid as the active ingredient, according to the Mayo Clinic. Doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics, but they may not be as effective for adults with resistant bacteria. Women of childbearing age who don't want to get pregnant can use birth-control pills.
Acne prevention is challenging because it's caused by a physical process that is difficult to interrupt. Face washing doesn't get rid of oil and can irritate and worsen pimples, Acne.org explains. Wash your face no more than twice a day with a very mild soap if you're an adult with acne. Use your hands because towels and washcloths are too rough. Women may be helped by using non-comedogenic cosmetics, which do not trap oil in the pores, and by thoroughly removing makeup every evening.