How is moderately severe adult acne treated?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Adult onset acne can be very complex and confusing for people. Some people have sensitive skin which, when becomes dry or red or irritated—forms pimples. These respond best to anti-inflammatories such as benzoyl peroxide plus resolving the cause of the sensitivity. Dry skin needs a nice moisturizer (Aveeno, Strivectin SD, Oil of Olay, etc). Sensitive red skin may need a patch test to discover any allergies to preservative or fragrances. Often people with adult acne from irritation are the same people who have tried dozens of new products on their skin and now have very confused skin. For these people, I recommend a detox of all products except for daily sunscreen (try water babies or coppertone or Nia 24) and gentle moisturizer for 3 weeks. Always see your dermatologist for guidance.

The other main causes of adult acne are either medical or external. Medical causes include hormonal changes and should be investigated with lab tests for PCOS, thyroid problems, and an ANA for autoimmune issues.  External causes are common culprits. Stress is the biggest. Plus lack of sleep (get a good 7-8 hours a night for at least 4 nights a week). Plus diet (despite studies stating otherwise, food does lead to acne!) Also, habits such as holding your chin in your hand (sweat and dirt on skin around the mouth can cause irritation) or pressing your cell phone on the skin  (same reasons). My #1 least favorite cause of adult acne is self surgery. Picking. Pickers are addicted to “cleansing” their skin but each time they pick or squeeze, it makes a mark that lasts for months. This is the hardest habit to kick and the most frustrating for patients who really want to fix their skin themselves! Please stop, and help your skin heal by using approved products to help your acne resolve quickly. Again, see your local dermatologist! We are here to help.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.