You’re in your twenties, which means breakouts are no a regular occurrence… right? Wrong. You can have acne even when you’re well into your thirties. Commonly known as adult acne, these pimples typically appear on your cheeks, chin and jawline. The good news? Adult acne can be treated. We spoke to Dr Mark Tang, Senior Consultant Dermatologist at The Skin Specialists & Laser Clinic, on what to do, and more importantly, what not to do when you breakout.
Do get it right
The first step to improving your skin condition is getting the right diagnosis. “Persistent adult acne can mimic many different similar conditions like rosacea, bacterial folliculitis, fungal folliculitis and even contact allergy,” says Dr Tang. Identifying the real cause for the breakout is the first step to treating your acne. If topical treatments don’t work, it’s time to see a dermatologist.
Do track your menstrual cycle
Aunt Flo’s arrival is almost always heralded by her friend, the Pimple. Adult acne tends to be hormonal and having a pre-menstrual flare is painfully common. “However, if your menses are becoming more irregular, it may be sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is another important cause of hormonal acne,” cautions Dr Mark.
Do look at where the acne occurs
You can identify the cause of pimple by tracking where you break out most of the time. Hormonal acne tends to have a U-shaped distribution on the face (jawline, chin and outer sides of the cheeks), while T-zone acne (central face, nose, and forehead) usually indicates adolescent acne.
Do watch what you eat
“The fatal link between a high sugary diet and acne is unfortunately true,” explains Dr Mark. Try cutting out high glycemic index foods – think refined sugars and everything nice – and switch out to healthy, low GI foods.
Do seek professional help
Acne that is red and inflamed has a risk of leaving scars and stains, which can be difficult to treat, and sometimes permanent. If over-the-counter products and facials are just not cutting it, seek medical help and get prescription medications that will save you a lot of heartache later.
Don’t layer too many products
You might think layering zit-busting products can help treat acne fast, but a gentle approach is far more beneficial. “Salicyclic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, retinoids and even benzoyl peroxide work by unclogging pores and exfoliating the skin. There’s no need to duplicate products, especially since the risk of skin irritation will be higher. Sometimes, less is more,” says Dr Mark.
Don’t be afraid to use concealer, if necessary
While clear skin that doesn’t always need foundation is the ultimate goal, using a concealer or foundation when you’ve broken out can help hide the breakout. But Dr Mark cautions, “Just as long as the acne is being correctly treated and the product is suitable and appropriate.” Look for products labelled non-comedogenic that won’t clog pores further.
Don’t pick and squeeze
This is easier said than done. It’s hard to resist the temptation, especially when the pimple is so big and painful that you feel it when you talk, and see it when you look down. In such instances, Dr Mark suggests seeing a dermatologist. “For large, cystic and swollen pimples, get an anti-inflammatory injection. This melts the urge and swelling much quicker and safer.”
Don’t forget the back and chest
Your face isn’t the only area susceptible to acne. You can breakout on your back and chest as well. Dr Mark says, “Acne on the back and chest can leave more stubborn scars and stains, compared to the face.” This is why it’s best to seek treatment for these areas early.