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Skin Care Products > Articles > Understanding Adult Acne?

Understanding Adult Acne?

Posted On: - 2009-09-08 00:37:39

Adult acne is rising at an alarming rate; 17 million people in the US suffer from this condition, and 54% of women over the age of 25 have problems with acne!

Why are adults (particularly women) experiencing acne as they age? The main contributing factor is CHRONIC STRESS! Most of us have experienced breakouts during times of high stress, but as we age, we are sometimes subject to large amounts of stress for longer periods of time. Other contributing factors can include:

* genetics
* cosmetics
* hormones
* environment (the sun and pollution can aggravate skin, causing it to overproduce skin cells- these cells can get trapped in the follicle and cause breakouts)
* heat and humidity (these can increase blood flow and oil production)

The result is adult acne, which is different from teen acne because it typically:

* is focused around the jaw, chin and neck
* has increased sensitivity
* can be accompanied by pigmentation changes
* heals more slowly

Let’s look at the 4 internal factors contributing to acne

Sebaceous Glands
* In acneic skin, these glands are overactive due to different factors (typically testosterone production)
* Sebum (oil) in acneic skin tends to have a thicker consistency, less linoleic acid, and higher levels of wax esters and squalene

Skin Cells

* Retention Hyperkeratosis occurs in acneic skin
o This is a build up of dead skin cells in the follicle and on the skin’s surface
o Skin with acne produces dead cells at an abnormal rate (about 4-5 times that of a normal follicle)
o These dead skin cells stick together with the oil, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria

Hair Follicles

* A typical hair follicle grows a thick hair, which then acts as a wick that pulls sebum and debris to the skin’s surface
* Acneic skin typically has follicles that have a very fine hair (or no hair at all)
Without a “wick”, oil and debris stay in the follicle and form impactions

Propionibacterium Acnes (P-acne Bacteria)
* Can live without oxygen, so they multiply and divide easily
* They feed off of our sebum o Leave behind fatty acids, which causes inflammation
* Presence of P-acne is commonly due to genetics

Acne is classified into 4 grades:

Grade 1: Mild Acne

* Micro-comedones; open and closed comedones; some early pustules

Grade 2: Acne Cosmetica

* Several closed comedones under the surface; more open comedones

Grade 3: Acne Vulgaris

* Red and inflamed; many papules, pustules and comedones

Grade 4: (Cystic Acne)

* Cysts (under the skin); comedones, papules, pustules and inflammation

It is important to identify which category you fall under when determining your skin care regimen. Skin therapists can help treat Grades 1 and 2…please consult a doctor or dermatologist for Grades 3 and 4.

Let’s take a look at ingredients to treat acne:


* ie: Kaolin, Bentonite, Magnesium
* These help to draw sebum out of the pores, and refine the skin

Hydroxy Acids
* Both AHA’s and BHA’s are beneficial because they help eliminate buildup in the follicles (in a non-abrasive manner)
* Salicylic Acid is particularly beneficial „X Dissolves oil „X Anitbacterial


* Antimicrobial agent that kills bacteria by interfering with their cell membrane function
* Commonly used in cleansers, toners and wipes

Benzoyl Peroxide
* Antibacterial
* On average, 98% of anaerobic bacteria decreases after 14 days of use
* Over the counter products over 10% or less (high amounts can cause peeling and scaling)


* Absorbs oil
* Antibacterial
* Breaks down keratin, which helps clear follicles

Tea Tree Oil
* Antibacterial
* Anti-fungal
* Powerful essential oil


* Cooling
* Anti-inflammatory
* A natural peppermint extract

* Antiseptic
* Anti-inflammatory
* Extracted from leaves and twigs of Gum Camphor tree

Witch Hazel

* Natural astringent
* Soothes inflammation, burns and infections
* Derived from twigs, leaves and bark of the Hamamelis Virginia Tree


* Have a calming and soothing effect
* Typically derived from nature
* ie: Chamomile, Coneflower, Aloe Vera, Allantoin (Comfrey plant), Oat Extract, Spiraea, Green Tea, Red Raspberry, Watercress, Balm Mint, Menthol, Bisabolol (from Chamomile) Zinc Sulfate

Dr. Marilynn Syrett is a graduate from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine Of The Pacific. She has a keen interest in studying the use and effectiveness of skin care brand products like Obagi & Clayton Shagal and Acne Skin Treatments.