More and more adults have acne – and they don’t know what to do about it

Hannah has always had flawless skin. “It was one of the only parts of my appearance that I could feel completely comfortable with,” she says. As a teenager, she even remembers feeling left out when her friends all had pimples. Things changed when she turned 26. “I suddenly had spots around my forehead and blackheads for the first time. It was like they kept multiplying when I wasn’t looking. With skincare beyond her budget, Hannah turned to makeup. “I covered my face with cheap foundation and concealer which only made it worse. I felt dirty and neglected all the time; it really took a toll on my self-esteem self.

Everyone expects to have skin problems as a teenager. Through a cocktail of puberty, raging hormones, and perhaps being exposed to alcohol for the first time, it’s no wonder it’s starting to show on our faces. But, in general, we are taught that these problems disappear when we enter adulthood. Acne is synonymous with spotted 14-year-old teenagers, not working adults. The NHS says acne is most common in girls aged 14 to 17 and boys aged 16 to 19, but often disappears by the time a person reaches their mid-twenties.

And yet, a growing number of people in their late twenties have skin problems — and they don’t know what to do about it. An American study revealed that some degree of acne affects 54% of women and 40% of men over the age of 25. It also has a mental impact, with a British Association of Dermatologists survey finding that more than half (54 per cent) of adults who have had acne feel it has had a negative impact on their confidence in itself.

“It sounds very simple, but the skin is your largest and most visible organ, so obviously if it has imperfections, we’re also going to feel less perfect,” Hannah says. “I also think we (mistakenly) associate acne with dirt. I was afraid people would think I never washed my face or ate junk food all the time. None of those things wasn’t true.

In a desperate attempt to heal her skin, Hannah went to the doctor several times and was prescribed antibiotics. It didn’t help. “I also saw a homeopath who prescribed me cream and sugar pills which did even less,” she recalls. “I’ve tried all the creams and treatments recommended by beauty bloggers; they all seemed to make my skin angrier.

Eventually, a GP prescribed benzoyl peroxide, an antiseptic used to treat acne. “It made a little difference.” But it wasn’t until Hannah received a facial as a birthday present in 2019 that her skin texture started to change for the better. “It wasn’t just that the facial was good, it was the advice the facialist gave me: stick to a few products and keep my routine very simple.” They also told her not to use moisturizer. “She said it wouldn’t suit my skin type and I haven’t used one since. The woman who gave the treatment said, ‘All these beauty bloggers come to us after damaging their skin with too much products, don’t believe it for a second”.

As Hannah’s story illustrates, people don’t know where to turn when faced with skin issues. Because despite the fact that everyone’s skin is unique and has a different set of requirements, the beauty industry caters to a singular skin type. Each product promises to cleanse our skin. Every expensive serum is committed to brightening our complexion. And every beauty brand claims to have magical powers that will make us all look like 20-somethings.

Of course, the reality is quite different. “Acne in adults is very common and can occur at any time because our skin is constantly changing,” says Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, founder of the Adonia Medical Clinic in London. “Hormonal changes, skin practices and many other reasons can cause breakouts, but when they start they tend to continue, so it’s important to review your skincare routine and adapt to the new needs of your skin.

According to Dr. Ejikeme, the most common skin problems experienced by people in their late twenties are acne and dark circles around the eyes. But there are other, more subtle issues that people can experience that are simply related to the aging process. “In your 20s and 30s, the body’s ability to produce essential compounds begins its permanent decline,” says renowned aesthetic physician and facialist Dr. Barbara Sturm. “This leads to a loss of elasticity, structure, barrier function and hydration in the skin. Collagen production also decreases in your late twenties, causing visible fine lines to appear.

Your late twenties are also when you might start to see results from prolonged sun exposure. That’s why almost every dermatologist says the most important product anyone in their twenties can put on their face is a good SPF. “Your skincare regimen should revolve around protection, prevention, and hydration and avoid harsh ingredients or treatments,” says Dr. Sturm. “Daily sunscreen, pollution protection and an intensive hydrating serum should be included in your essentials.”

There are far too many misconceptions about how to treat skin problems today, with countless so-called skin experts (and the aforementioned beauty bloggers) recommending harsh – and expensive – treatments that dry out the skin. What he really needs is to be hydrated and healed. “The goal of skincare should be to soothe and reduce inflammation, not cause it,” says Dr. Sturm.

“Quick fix topical acids or harsh lasers are not anti-aging approaches, nor are they solutions,” she continues. “They destroy healthy skin cells. Skin care should never cause discomfort. The idea that you should “feel the burn” to get results is a dangerous myth in the beauty and skincare community. Burning is a sign of injury, not efficiency.

Rather than seek out such treatments, Jessica, 29, sought a holistic approach when – out of nowhere – she started getting rashes all over her face. “It was weird,” she recalls, “because I felt like I was living a healthy life; I was active, ate mostly plant-based, did yoga at the office at lunchtime…all of it. On paper, I was healthy, but my face told a different story.

Jessica tried facial acupuncture, reiki, naturopathy, daily celery juices and spent a lot of money on food allergies and blood tests. “I also made the mistake of going to a facialist who desperately needed answers, and they were able to convince me to get regular treatment and use expensive products. I was so desperate that I I would have done anything, but none of it worked.

Only after reading a book about the link between menstruation and beauty – The woman’s code by Alissa Vitti – that Jessica started thinking about the impact her hormones might have had on her skin. “I started getting my cycle in sync – becoming more in tune with my menstrual cycle and adjusting my diet and exercise habits accordingly.” After a few weeks of simple changes, like not exercising on her period and avoiding certain foods on her period, Jessica’s skin began to clear.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there – anyone can say they’re a skin expert

How you treat your skin problems will depend on your own skin type. Those with oily skin will have completely different requirements than those with dry skin, for example. Ethnicity is also important to consider. “Historically, darker skin tones haven’t had access to the same products as lighter skin tones, and some products won’t work as effectively,” notes Dr. Ejikeme. “For this reason, it’s important to have conversations about products and who they work best for.”

Whatever your skin type, however, it’s important not to get sucked into spending hundreds of dollars on complex products and treatments that may make no difference and may even make your skin worse. “As a general rule, a good skincare regimen only needs a cleanser, an exfoliator, a serum rich in powerful active ingredients and intensive hydration, an excellent moisturizer and of an SPF,” says Dr. Sturm.

Looking back on her skin issues, Hannah wishes there had been better skin health education when she was in school. “I also think that general practitioners need to be better trained,” she adds. “The fact that they give antibiotics as treatment absolutely baffles me. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, in a way very similar to nutrition. Anyone can say they’re a skin expert, the same way you can say they’re a nutritionist. And as far as brands go, well, they just want to sell us as many products as possible, even though we know that using too many products can actually be harmful to our skin.

Now that Jessica’s skin issues have been resolved, the difference in her self-perception is immeasurable. “I think because we’re bombarded with ads for products to improve our skin at any cost, the pressure to have the perfect complexion can seem immense,” she says. “So when skin issues arise, it suddenly becomes a part of your identity that you weren’t prepared for. Your face is the first thing someone sees when they look at you. it is the window to our mind and body. It should be a priority. »

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