Do the causes (and remedies) differ with adult acne vs. teenage acne? Acne is often seen as a teenage rite of passage, but while we know that acne is common in adolescents, adults are affected as well.
Collin CN's research on the prevalence of acne in adults 20 years and older broke down the percentage of 1013 men who reported having acne. They found 42.5% of men aged 20-29, 20.1% aged 30-39, 12% aged 40-49, and 7.3% of men aged 50+ were still affected by acne. And while your teenage acne may be attributed more to hormones, your adult acne could be more influenced by periods of stress.
It is however, important to note that acne is very much multifactorial, and its causes (and remedies) are highly individual as a result. Factors including genetics, hormones, lifestyle habits, diet, environmental factors, illness, medications, and more can affect the state of your skin. Therefore, pinpointing your acne trigger and finding your acne solution can be a challenging process.
How should guys evolve their approach to treating acne as they get older? If you’ve found a skincare regimen that continues to work for you, then you don’t necessarily have to alter your approach to fighting acne.
Suggested daily skincare routine:
In the morning:
1) wash your face with a gentler cleanser,
2) use a sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF.
In the evening:
1) Wash your face with a gentler cleanser
2) Apply 2 pumps of your custom Curology medication
3) Use a moisturizer as needed
However, as you age, your skin may evolve. For example, if anti-aging is a concern, you can adapt your acne skincare routine to help incorporate ingredients that address both your acne and anti-aging effectively.
Treating both acne and anti-aging:
Tretinoin (the active ingredient in prescription acne topicals such as Retin-A and also in some Curology medications) decreases the formation of microcomedones (or blocked pores) by normalizing the life cycle of the cells that line the pore opening and helping fight acne. It is also considered a gold standard ingredient for treating and preventing wrinkles by stimulating collagen growth.
Sun damage as you age:
It is estimated that damage caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun is responsible for up to 80% of skin aging. Sun exposure breaks down collagen, which is the support structure surrounding the pores—so pores may appear larger as you age. Thus, sun protection is always key and becomes even more important as you age.
Dark spots and aging:
Middle-aged adults and older people are at most risk for sun spots, age spots, and liver spots, which show up in sun-exposed areas, such as your face and the back of your hands. Known as lentigines, these dark spots often come with age or result from being in the sun too much without sunscreen.
Niacinamide is a potent agent in minimizing dark spots and hyperpigmentation and works by blocking the pigment from surfacing on the outer layer of skin. You can get prescription-strength niacinamide in your Curology custom formulas or use lower concentrations over the counter.
For an OTC option, try using Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster.
Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A, used to lighten dark spots and are also perfect for aging skin. Certain weaker retinoids, such as retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinaldehyde, are available without a prescription. An over-the-counter cream with retinol will help fade spots over time and even skin tone.
Are the same products you used as a teen still appropriate?
Yes! The main thing to bear in mind about the products you use is to avoid ones with pore-clogging potential, especially if you’re acne-prone. Although it’s not a guarantee and terms are not FDA-regulated, it’s best to use only products labeled with terms such as “non-comedogenic," "non-acnegenic," "does not clog pores," or "won't cause breakouts."
It can be helpful to check your skincare products on cosDNA.com to avoid pore-clogging ingredients. Pull up and run the ingredient list through the "Analyze Cosmetics" section of their website (the website of the manufacturer should have an ingredients list, or check other websites that sell the product, such as Ulta or Amazon). Once you click "Analyze", look in the "acne" column—if there are any 3's, 4's, or 5's, consider stopping use of this product. (Of course, these ratings are a guide, as individual responses vary.)
Another thing to bear in mind is to listen to your skin. As your skin changes, you may notice an increase in dark spots as you age, or an evolution in which the cystic acne in your teenage years gives way to less inflamed pimples and clogged pores. So as your skin needs evolve (see some examples above), you should consider adjusting your regimen. But if your current routine is working for you, you should be more than fine.
David Lortscher, MD, Board-Certified Dermatologist, Founder Curology.com
David Lortscher, MD started out at a dermatology practice in New Mexico. He saw how a person’s skin could have huge social and economic impact on their life — and how many people experienced economic, geographic, and psychological barriers to seeing a dermatologist. That’s why he created Curology in 2014. Since then, David’s helped many more patients online. He still serves as a remote dermatology consultant for rural healthcare clinics in Arizona and New Mexico that lack specialty medical care.