While acne is common in teenagers who are going through hormone changes, more and more adults are getting acne. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that acne is the most common skin condition in the United States and that more women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are being diagnosed with acne. With these facts, it is natural to ask, “Is there anything I can do to prevent getting acne?” Learn the risk factors for acne, prevention myths, and healthy preventative measures.
Acne is a skin condition that arises when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. These clogged pores can create a variety of blemishes, including blackheads, white heads, pimples, pustules (pimples with pus on their tops), papules (raised, red bumps), nodules (hard, painful bumps below the surface of the skin) and cysts (nodules that contain pus). Typically acne occurs on the face, neck, shoulders and upper back. Acne sufferers find that when one round of blemishes disappears, another round quickly appears.
You are more at risk for acne if you are a teenager, as your hormones are changing during puberty, causing an overproduction of oil and thus a greater likelihood for clogged pores. Risk factors for adults are those undergoing hormonal changes, such as in pregnant women and women taking oral contraceptives. You are also more at risk for acne if you are taking a corticosteroid, lithium, or testosterone. Stress and diet can trigger acne. While there are many claims that certain foods cause acne, according to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown only skim milk, carbohydrate-rich foods, and possibly chocolate to be acne triggers. Genetic factors can also put you in a higher risk group -- if your parents had acne, it is more likely that you will also develop it.
There are a lot of myths swirling about as to what can cause acne. In order to properly prevent acne, it is important to debunk these myths. Although some kinds of food can trigger acne, greasy food is not one of them. Even though acne is caused by oil and dead skin cells in your pores, dirty skin is not a culprit in causing acne. In fact, scrubbing your skin or using harsh cleansers can irritate your skin, strip it of its natural and beneficial oils, cause your skin to overcompensate and produce more oil and worsen an acne breakout. In general, make-up does not cause acne. If you are using a non-oil based make-up and removing it gently and daily before going to bed, you will not have cosmetics-created acne.
While an overproduction of oil is a factor in causing acne, you don’t want to eliminate all oil from your skin. Oil is an essential part of your skin health, moisturizing and protecting your skin. How you cleanse your skin plays a critical role in both preventing acne and preserving the beneficial oils on your skin. When you wash your skin, do so in the morning, before bed and after exercising. Use gentle cleansers that don’t contain alcohol or oils. Don’t scrub at your skin while washing-- this can irritate your skin and stimulate more oil production. After washing your skin, you should apply a non-oil based moisturizer with an SPF of 30 to protect your skin. The American Academy of Dermatologists recommends using sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to prevent acne breakouts. If you wear cosmetics, use oil-free makeup or makeup that is labeled “non comedogenic” (not pore-clogging), and make sure to remove your makeup before going to bed. Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing in acne-prone areas, especially on your face (like hats and headbands.) There are a few things you can do to care for your face throughout the day. Keep your hair away from your face as much as possible so that the oils from your hair don’t get onto your face. You can use a skin-blotter, which you should use without rubbing it around on your face, thus spreading oils to other parts of your face. Avoid touching your face, which will keep dirt from your hands from getting into your pores. This includes not picking at already-existing blemishes on your face. You should also bathe or wash your face after exercising, eliminating acne-causing oil and sweat.
While stress can’t cause acne, it can trigger outbreaks. So, it’s important that you learn some good stress-management techniques. It’s also a good idea to keep to a healthy diet that limits carbohydrates and sugars. With these preventative measures, you can help control outbreaks and reduce the chance of developing more severe acne, getting acne scars, and damaging your skin.
If you are prone to acne or currently suffering from it, contact Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area. The board-certified dermatologists at Vanguard will work with you to prevent acne outbreaks and create a treatment plan for managing your acne.