Adult acne affecting more women

February 19, 2013 9:00:52 PM PST
If you thought you paid your dues with acne as a teenager, think again. An increasing number of adults, especially women, are struggling with acne.

Shena Tines, 33, says she tried product after product to deal with her acne.

"It's just frustrating because nothing worked. I did feel alone," said Tines.

Mackenzie Stern, 27, also faced acne as an adult. She said it began to affect her self-esteem.

"You just keep waiting for it to get a little bit better," said Stern.

Stern and Times may not know each other, but they share a problem that is becoming increasingly common in women of all ages.

Researchers say there are many factors that can cause acne in adulthood. They believe that increased stress, bad diets and even fluctuating hormones can play a role.

All of these factors can contribute to the production of excess oil, which clogs pores.

"Being female is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of acne," said Dr. Bethanee Schlosser, Dermatologist at Northwestern. "While in teens it is more full face and t-zones, in women it tends to migrate down the face."

She says that adult acne is more likely to require professional help.

While birth control pills may help balance hormones, experts say there is another drug that may help- spironolactone.

Spironolactone is in a group of drugs classified as anti-anti-androgens. Androgen hormones like testosterone are typically thought of as male hormones. But experts say androgens are also present in the female body in lower levels, and can increase with stress and age. The drug is used, off label, to treat acne, and can limit hormones that can contribute to breakouts.

Stern says the drug has helped her acne.

"With this, I actually saw results pretty quickly," said Stern.

Still, experts say there is no magical solution, and therapy must be tailored to each patient.

Tines, for example, found that her acne worsened after pregnancy.

"Slow, gradual progression of my skin getting better," she said.

For inflammatory acne, light and lasers are increasingly popular, especially after the bumps have left their mark. FDA-approved home laser treatments can also help when used with a skin regime.

"For people who have burnt out acne and they are left with scars they don't like, it's useful in a variety of skin types," said Dr. Rebecca Tung, a dermatologist at Loyola University.

Tung says experts are also looking at the role diet may play. She says that foods we love to grab on the run- such as breads, sweets and chips- may spike hormone levels.

"There are some early studies showing these things in certain patients. Not everybody, but it can certainly whip up your acne," she said.

Other options that experts recommend are special face washes and topical treatments such as retin-a.

However, experts say it is better to go easy on over-the-counter products. They caution that the products that worked during the teen years may not work for adult skin.

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can be effective, but mature skin tends to be drier. Creams and lotions with 5-10% salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide may be too harsh for older skin.

Experts suggest utilizing products with 2.5% formula, in order to avoid over-drying of the skin.

For more information, visit the Loyola University Medical Center website: