Perhaps you think you’re safe once you enter adulthood. After all, acne is one of those adolescent annoyances you assume you’ve left behind. And then…it’s back.
Adult acne is not uncommon and can be caused by hormonal changes, stress, certain medications, cosmetics or a family history of rosacea. Determining whether an obvious cause exists is the first step in dealing with it, says Donna Marie MacDonald, a licensed esthetician with Jean Phillipe & Company. “There are a few skin-care ingredients specifically geared for treating acne,” she says. For instance, benzoyl peroxide deposits oxygen to the pores, which inhibits the reproduction of acne-causing bacteria. Another compound, salicylic acid, acts as an exfoliant and helps destroy existing bacteria.
“We have these ingredients in our products, and we see good results with them,” MacDonald says. “By creating a simple skin-care routine with good-quality ingredients, you can often see a noticeable improvement. We help our clients determine the best combination of products and active ingredient strengths. In general, professional-grade products are very effective.”
However, MacDonald notes that clients who have persistent acne or identify a medical cause for their skin issues will benefit from seeing a physician. Dr. Amy Miller of St. Louis Skin Solutions sees acne patients in need of medical and prescription remedies. “Many times we exhaust traditional therapies first before moving on to more involved strategies, such as laser treatments,” she says. First-line therapies include the use of topical retinoids and antibiotics or oral antibiotics. “Generally, we see improvement within a month, although antibiotics may require an eight-week course.”
Once acne is under control, Miller helps patients prevent further outbreaks with nightly applications of Tretinoin (the generic form of Retin-A), which also helps prevent wrinkles. “We also recommend using the Clarisonic brush to exfoliate and cleanse on a daily basis,” she says. When used with a glycolic acid-based cleanser, “it’s not too aggressive, which is good because scrubbing the skin can cause inflammation and irritation that promotes the acne cycle.”
Laser and intense pulsed light treatments also are useful for clearing adult acne. For example, at Synergi MedSpa, lasers destroy bacteria on or deep within the skin while shrinking sebaceous (sweat) glands that can make patients more susceptible to future outbreaks. Some patients also want to address scarring from adolescent acne outbreaks, notes Dr. Richard Maack, Synergi medical director. “We work to smooth and resurface scarred skin with our erbium laser,” he says. This treatment removes the superficial top layer to reveal smoother skin underneath. “As it heals, the thermal reaction also causes collagen production, which further helps to smooth the skin.”
“We also use the erbium laser with the profractional handpiece,” Maack adds. “That lets us treat the skin with tiny but deep pinpoints, so only about 11 percent of the skin is touched. This option involves less recovery, and some people feel it tightens the skin better than the full-surface erbium laser, although patients may need more than one treatment to get optimal results.”
The deepest level of laser treatment may require five or six days of downtime, Maack says, but patients can experience dramatic results. “There are many options available, so the most important thing to know is that you don’t have to live with adult acne.”