What you should know about adult acne

It’s happened to us all: We wake up, walk groggily over to the mirror, and see a big, angry zit staring back at us. We’ve all endured pimples in our teens, but isn’t that stuff supposed to go away by the time we’re adults? UGH.

But unfortunately, some have to endure more than just the occasional pimple as an adult. It’s called adult acne, and it’s a condition that can cause embarrassment and deal a massive blow to self-esteem. Adult acne can feel never-ending, no matter what techniques you try or what facial scrubs you use. Here are some facts we all need to know about adult acne.

There is no age barrier to acne.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), adults can continue to get acne well into their 30s, 40s, and 50s.

It’s possible to get acne for the very first time as an adult.

According to AAD, this is called “adult-onset acne.” It’s most common for women who are going through menopause to experience this kind of adult acne.

Your diet can have an effect on adult acne. . . 

You may have heard that diet has nothing to do with acne, but don’t believe that sentiment one bit; although diet likely doesn’t have 100% to do with it, the foods you eat can certainly be a factor. The myth can be traced back about fifty years, according to doctorate candidate at New York University Jennifer Burris. “Two landmark but flawed studies conducted in the ’60s and ’70s found that chocolate was not associated with acne,” she told Health.com. “These studies were so popular that people concluded diet had nothing to do with acne and stopped researching the topic for the next 40 years.”

. . . but that doesn’t mean you should give up on chocolate forever.

Another myth is that chocolate is awful for acne. Not so, according to dermatologist Marguerite Germain, MD — as long as you stick to dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher. “The problem isn’t the cocoa itself, it’s the sugar and dairy that’s added,” she told Health.com. “The higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the glycemic index.”

Women tend to get adult acne more often than men.

Yep, according to AAD, women are more likely to suffer from adult acne. You know, BECAUSE LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

Stress can cause adult acne.

When we have too much on our plate and start stressing out, our bodies produce androgens — hormones that stimulate oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, according to AAD. Then, BAM, more acne.

Getting in some activity (*wink wink*) can reduce adult acne.

If you experience stress, your acne can, indeed, be related — but moving around can help. Every day, try fitting in activities that relieve stress, like a quick 30-minute workout or even sex, says Ava Shamban, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA and author of Heal Your Skin. “These reduce excess cortisol and produce endorphins, which have a calming effect,” she told Women’s Health Mag.

Certain birth control medications can also help.

A lot of women on birth control initially start it not for contraception, but to help with their acne. “Birth control pills like Beyaz, Yaz, and Yasmin contain analog hormones that may help clear the skin,” Shamban explained to Women’s Health Mag.

The right makeup can actually help heal it.

Many may be tempted to cover up their acne with thick foundations, but a lot of makeup can irritate blemishes further by clogging up pores. However, if you prefer using powder foundation, you’re in luck! “Powder foundations absorb oils that would otherwise be clogging your pores,” Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, told Health.com.

Those who prefer a liquid foundation can avoid the pore-clogging quality if they make sure it’s non-comedogenic, which means “the product hasn’t been found to promote acne per the cosmetics company’s standards,” according to Gohara.

Smearing toothpaste on a zit is not a good idea.

You may have heard the myth about toothpaste-ing a zit, and you may even have tried it. It can work, to a degree — but not without consequences. Toothpaste has baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, menthol, essential oils, and triclosan, which, yes, can dry pimples out,” Gohara told Health.com. “But it’s not made for your skin, so it can cause irritation and rashes.”

Adult acne can be exhausting to deal with, and it’s a problem we all wish we could just leave during our awkward teen years. But there are options. Talk to your doctor for more recommendations on how to treat your acne.

(Image via Shutterstock.)