Adult acne, why you get it and how to fight it, as shared by Dr Nicholas Ngui, Medical Director and Founder of Neu Age Clinic.
WHAT IS ACNE?
Acne is a common skin condition that is characterised by whiteheads, blackheads, greasiness and red pimples on the face, neck, back and upper chest. These areas have the greatest population of oil glands. In people affected by acne, their oil glands are overactive and this leads to the clogging of pores and oil glands with oil and dead skin cells, bacterial overgrowth and inflammation of the oil glands.
I am in my thirties and I noticed recently that I have pimples on my face. Isn’t acne a condition that only teenagers get?
While it is true that acne occurs mostly during the teenage years (affecting over 90% of teenagers), acne during the adult years is becoming more and more prevalent these days. Adult acne affects women more often than men, occurring in 1 out of 4 men and as high as 1 out of 2 women. Furthermore, one does not need to have teenage acne to experience adult acne.
Why does acne occur in adults?
The exact cause of adult is not fully understood. However here are some of the factors triggering and aggravating adult acne:
• Hormonal fluctuation, especially in women
• Lifestyle changes and stress
• Usage of certain make-up formulations causing clogging of the pores
• Medication like anti-epilepsy drugs, mood stabiliser drugs and steroids. Examples of steroids are birth control pills, anabolic steroids for muscle building; steroids for managing long term inflammatory conditions.
• Medical conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
• Genetic tendency – individuals with a family history of acne are at a higher risk of developing acne.
Do diet and lifestyle play a role in the occurrence of acne?
There is some evidence that suggests that consuming a lot of high glycemic index food (i.e. refined carbohydrate, sugar and starch) may aggravate acne. As mentioned earlier, lifestyle and work stress can aggravate acne. Using heavy makeup and leaving them on overnight can increase clogging of the pores and in turn aggravate acne.
Is it necessary to see a doctor for acne problems? Aren’t over-the-counter solutions effective enough?
Acne is a very complex condition that varies greatly in severity and appearance. It can be as mild as a minor crop of white heads with no inflammation or it can be very severe with multiple eruptions of inflamed nodules, pus filled cysts and scars covering the whole face.
In view of the fact that acne can be severe, over-the-counter solutions are far from adequate in dealing with anything more than an occasional “zit” or two. I think its alright to use over-the-counter products like cleansers and pimple spot applications initially when the person is experiencing very mild acne.
He or she should consider seeing a doctor if the acne starts to get worse and the earlier, the better. The doctor can assess the status of the acne and determine the level of treatment that is needed. The key to managing acne is early detection and aggressive intervention where appropriate in order to prevent serious effects of acne such as pigmentation changes, scarring, disfigurement and psychological disturbance.
What is the best way to prevent scarring from acne? What if I already have scars?
Scarring develops when the skin is so damaged by the acne inflammation that the affected skin cannot regenerate normally and is replaced by fibrous scar tissue.
Curbing the acne inflammation as quickly as possible to prevent or minimise irreversible damage to the skin and preventing new inflamed acne lesions from erupting is the key to preventing scarring. So the best way to prevent scarring from acne is to treat and control the acne as early as possible.
If scars are already present, the best way to treat them is through laser resurfacing therapy and needle subcision, which is a needling technique that cuts and frees up scar fibres that are pulling the skin downwards causing pits and depressions.
What sort of skin cleansing/maintenance regime is best suited for acne skin?
It’s a common misconception that just keeping the skin clean is enough to control acne. Acne per se is not just related to poor hygiene. Acne is related to excessive oil produced by the skin’s oil glands, the development of whiteheads/blackheads and subsequent inflammation of these whiteheads/blackheads due to bacterial overgrowth.
With this in mind, I would recommend a good cleanser that would effectively clean the skin and clear away surface oil but not dry the skin. Secondly, use skin products and medication to control the formation of whiteheads and inflammation. Your doctor can advise you on this.
In more severe cases, oral antibiotics like doxycycline or retinoids like isotretinoin are prescribed by the doctor. Treatment procedures like Theraclear light and vacuum suction therapy and salicylic acid skin peels are useful in expediting the clearance of acne.
About the doctor: Dr Nicholas Ngui
Dr Nicholas Ngui is the Medical Director and Founder of Neu Age Clinic, a boutique aesthetic medical practice that offers a full range of customised physician-prescribed treatments to address your skin concerns safely and effectively.
Dr Nick’s core strengths are in the treatment of acne, acne scars and pigmentation, facial skin rejuvenation and electrosurgery. Treatments are effected through the application of pharmaceutical-grade skin care, medicines, laser and other state-of-the art technologies.