Adult acne, whether constant or cyclical breakouts, can occur at nearly any age. What causes breakouts in adulthood, and what can you do?
1. Hormone imbalances
Your hormones are constantly changing. Great skin in your 20's does not predict blemish-free skin in your 30's, 40's, or even 50's. After age 35 hormones start plummeting. Estradiol, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone all take a dive at different rates, causing imbalances, and relative excesses or deficiencies of one hormone over another. A never-ending teeter totter. Androgenic hormones, DHEA and testosterone, are the slowest to decline, and excess of either of these leads to increased sebum production and acne.
Women's bodies also experience menstrual cycle irregularities (read hormone irregularities) causing acne due to a variety of conditions including: ovarian dysfunction, suboptimal adrenal function (leading to the pregnenolone steal - more on that later), poor blood sugar management with elevated insulin levels, and thyroid dysfunction.
Get your thyroid checked regularly, manage your blood sugar with high fibre, adequate protein and fats, plenty of vegetables and avoiding high-glycemic foods, & talk to a naturopathic doctor about regulating your cycles.
Supplements that assist in hormone balancing include*:
Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree) 500-1200mg daily
Zinc picolinate 15mg daily
Magnesium bisglycinate 300-500mg daily
Vitamin B6 150mg daily
*Therapeutic dosing of supplements is not recommended unless under the care of a naturopathic doctor.
Stress is defined by Merriam Webster as "a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation". There it is. Stress can cause disease (and acne).
The adrenal glands can produce a variety of hormones, and become an increasingly important hormone source as we age. When the body perceives it's under stress, it responds by first increasing the cortisol output from the adrenal glands. If the stress is prolonged, the cortisol pathway in the adrenal gland borrows from the pregnenolone pathway (which supports DHEA, testosterone, and estrogen formation), in order to improve the cortisol output. Prolonged stress = more cortisol demand & less sex hormones. More cortisol leads to more sebum output and more acne.
Learning to manage stress through activities like meditation, yoga, walking, swimming, and spending time outdoors will help to decrease your cortisol demand, and improve your skin.
Supplements that support adrenal and skin health include:
Vitamin C 3000 mg daily
Magnesium bisglycinate 300 mg daily
Vitamin B5 100 mg daily
Withania somnifera (Ashwaghanda) extract
Raise your hand if you've ever eaten a really crappy diet for an extended period of time. I'm talking greasy, deep-fried foods, fast foods, white starches, excess alcohol, excess caffeine, and no vegetables for stretches of time, (if this has never been you - amazing!). Do you recall how gorgeous your skin looked? Dry, sunken, maybe puffy eyes, acne, perhaps a little ruddy looking or ashen?
Adequate water intake (the average adult is 55-65% water), antioxidant & mineral-rich foods (think loads of brightly coloured vegetables and fruit), low glycemic foods, and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, fish oils) will support adequate detoxification, elimination of wastes, less inflammation, less internal stress, better hormone balance, and better skin.
4. Facial products, make-up, & face washing routines
There is such a thing as washing your face too often, leading to over-drying your skin, causing compensatory oil production. Not washing your face after a day of wearing make-up may also contribute to acne.
Finding facial products that work for you is a personal pursuit. Aside from the possibility that your skincare products might be comedogenic, I suggest looking at the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep page if you are uncertain about the safety (toxicity) of your chosen skin product.
My favourites are Osmosis cleansers and retinol serums, and Jane Iredale tinted moisturizers. What are yours?
1. Profiling and Hormonal Therapy for Acne in Women 2014
2.Adrenal and Thyroid Supplementation Outperforms Nutritional Supplementation and Medications for Autoimmune Thyroiditis 2014
3. Water, Hydration, and Health 2010