Thought you left breakouts and blemishes behind with that first crush? Think again! According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than half of women over 25 still have acne.
Grown-up breakouts are definitely different than the kind you had in high school. Teen acne usually appears in the middle of the face and the acne lesions are easier to extract, because they sit right under the surface of the skin. In contrast, adult acne is usually on the chin and along the jawline, appearing as deep cysts or under-the-skin pimples, which can’t be extracted until the skin is exfoliated enough to coax them to the surface.
So what’s causing our embarrassing zits as adults? The main culprit is changing hormone levels: Premenstrual dips in estrogen and fluctuations that occur during pre-menopause can cause–or worsen–a breakout.
But there are other surprising causes of acne. Our makeup, skin care regimen, food choices, cell phone, and traveling may also be to blame. The good news is, we have control over these and can make changes. Here are some surprising causes of adult acne and ways to remove them from your lifestyle.
#1 Culprit: Hair products
You should evaluate all hair products if your breakouts are concentrated on the hairline, forehead, jawline, neck, behind the ears or upper back. Remember: Whatever you put in your hair will migrate onto your skin, because you perspire as you rush through your day, climb stairs, get stressed, exercise, and toss and turn in your sleep. In fact, breakouts caused by styling products are so common, there’s a name for them: “pomade acne.” Your hairstyle matters too: Bangs make acne worse by bringing skin-clogging hair products right against your forehead. Many times, what you’re using on your hair winds up on your face, especially if you use products with spray applicators. And check on the ingredients in your shampoo. Sodium sulfates (aka “sodium laureth sulfate” and “sodium lauryl sulfate”) leave a film on your skin that causes acne.
Choose your shampoo wisely, and wash your face (and chest or back, if they’re acne-prone) after rinsing your shampoo and conditioner. Also, apply styling products with your hands and be careful to keep them away from the hairline, but even then you should touch up your skin with a cleansing cloth to remove any remaining styling product.
POREspective Recommended “Safe” Hair Products:
#2 Culprit: Skin Care Products, Including Sunscreens
The average woman tries 5-10 new products a year. That’s great news for the cosmetic industry, but bad for your skin. Here’s why: Most department store and drugstore-brand skin care products are causing your acne, because they contain the super-comedogenic ingredients isopropyl myristate or laureth-4.
Whether your goal is fighting wrinkles or zapping zits, check the ingredient list carefully if you’re acne-prone. Need more reason to stop dabbling with acne “cures”? You’ll save money and free up space around your makeup mirror.
#3 Culprit: Your diet
As teens, we believed that greasy grub like french fries caused our pimples, but it’s the salt that’s really causing it. That’s because regular table salt contains iodides, and acne-prone pores get red and inflamed as we sweat excess iodides out of our body. Also, a small 2008 Australian study found that carbohydrates with a high-glycemic index (for example, soda, sugary snacks, and junk food) increased the development and severity of breakouts. Those who ate low-glycemic foods seemed to have less severe acne, researchers found.
Cut back on salty snacks like bread and chips unless they are seasoned with sea salt, and load up on veggies and fruits, grass-fed meats, and pasture-raised eggs.
Avoid eating sushi rolls, sprinkling kelp on your salads, and adding spirulina to your smoothies–all of these contain enough iodides to cause an acne cyst to erupt within the week. Also, avoid peanuts, peanut butter and most cheeses (except goat cheese). Make sure you steer clear of vitamins containing potassium iodides and nutrition bars, all of which contain acne-causing salt.
#4 Culprit: Cell phones
All that on-the-go chatting is great, keeping you in touch with friends, family and the office. But for your complexion? Not so much. Throughout the day, cell phones are exposed to many surfaces, including your dirty fingers, which have bacteria on them. When you’re talking on your cell phone, you’re putting bacteria close to your mouth, and the warmth and moisture create a great environment for that bacteria to thrive, grow and cause acne on your face. Plus, if you’re constantly on your cell phone (or regular phone, for that matter), rubbing it against your face can lead to “acne mechanica,” (pimples caused by friction).
Besides giving your phone a rest every once in a while, clean it with an alcohol wipe or hand sanitizer daily.
Texting and headsets.
#5 Culprit: Traveling
Ever wonder why you come home from a vacation and your skin looks like the surface of the moon? The change in humidity, weather or even the water used for washing your hair and face can all trigger acne.
You can’t control the weather where you visit, so be especially careful about Adult Acne Culprits #1-4 while you’re on the road.
Your skin is already adapting to environmental changes, so don’t pile on epidermal stress with new products just because they are in more convenient travel-size containers. Ask your esthetician for samples of products you know are safe for adult, acne-prone skin.