Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Ng Qing Xiang
Adult Acne: Understanding the Causes and How to Treat Them
Published | 5 min read
Adult acne is not unusual. Sadly, it’s becoming more common, due to the prolonged wear of facial protective equipment. Find out the leading causes of acne and some home remedies to treat it.
Every adult has gone through and survived all the confusing physical changes during their awkward puberty phase: the braces, the growth spurt and the body hair, to name a few. Sadly, there’s at least one change that somehow manages to follow almost everybody into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s: adult acne.
Generally, acne disappears when someone reaches their mid-20s. But around 3% of adults still have acne even when they’re over 35. Nowadays, with face masks becoming part of our life, it’s more likely for adults to develop acne.
So why does acne exist? How do we get rid of it? Below, we’re going to talk about the causes of adult acne and ways to treat it.
What is Acne?
Acne is a type of skin condition that commonly affects most people at some point in their lives. The symptoms include one or a few bumps under the skin’s surface that are sometimes painful or hot to touch.
While it most frequently appears on the face, acne can also develop on the back and chest.
Causes of Acne
Several factors can cause breakouts:
Hormonal imbalances are often the cause of adult acne. Due to changes in hormones, grease-producing glands (sebaceous glands) near the hair follicles in the skin will generate an excessive amount of oil. This condition, called abnormal sebum, affects the works of the skin bacterium – P. acnes. This bacterium that’s usually harmless, will turn aggressive, triggering inflammation and pus.
Could the acne on your face indicate that there are some issues with your bowel movements? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the answer is yes.
When someone has a constipation problem, their intestinal endotoxin metabolites will accumulate. This condition causes toxin build-up and metabolism disorder, resulting in acne. Breakouts originating from constipation are usually found on the sides of the nose and near the lips.
In TCM, damp-heat constitution is the pathological basis of acne. Influenced by external factors, damp-heat constitution can lead to acne in the three pattern types, including lung meridian wind-heat, spleen and stomach damp-heat, and phlegm stasis congestion and stagnation.
TCM believes that every person has a body constitution that influences our emotional and physical states. For example, people with heaty constitution tend to have, among others, oily skin and, therefore, skin that is prone to acne.
If you wonder whether you have a damp-heat constitution, go over these symptoms and find out if you have them: oily face, bitter taste in the mouth, inflamed lips, dry mouth, tongue with a red tip and thin coat, bad breath, and sticky stool or constipation
Since the pandemic began, we have learned a few contemporary terms. Two Since the pandemic began, we have learned a few contemporary terms. Two examples are “new normal” and “maskne”. The latter is short for “mask” and “acne”. The expression relates to the type of acne due to wearing a mask. When worn too long, especially in hot and humid weather, a mask can irritate the skin and stimulate breakouts.
Treatments for Adult Acne
Acne isn’t curable, but it is treatable. Most people apply products containing benzoyl peroxide to the affected areas. However, here’s a list of alternative treatments you can take to get rid of acne.
1. Pearl powder
A homemade mask with pearl powder as the main ingredient can help to smoothen the skin.
Here’s how to create your own pearl powder mask:
- Mix 0.2gram of pearl powder with 1-2 ml of milk.
- Add ½ teaspoon of egg white to treat oily skin.
- Apply the mask to the face.
- After 20 minutes, wash with water.
2. Healthy skin diet
According to TCM, there are certain types of foods that we can consume based on the causes of acne.
For treating abnormal sebum: Consume healthy fats. They promote fatty acid metabolism, prevent clogged pores, and offer anti-inflammatory effects. Examples of healthy fats are deep-sea fish, nuts, oil, linseed oil, and Inca oil.
For treating constipation: Consume fruits and vegetables that are rich in fibre. Oats, dragon fruit, banana yoghurt or milkshake are just some examples.
For treating the damp-heat body constitution: Choose foods that have a “cooling” tendency. They include barley, melons, leafy vegetables, lotus roots, mung beans, kelp, and “cooling” tea.
How to make cooling tea:
- Prepare 50g mung beans, 30g raw barley, and 500ml water.
- Boil water on high heat for 10 minutes.
- Cook all ingredients on low heat for 30 minutes.
Choose a cotton mask
A mask made from 100% cotton keeps your skin irritation-free. Always keep your mask clean and wash the sweat, oil, and dust away.
All in all, one way to avoid adult acne is clean and moisturised skin. It might be a good idea to invest in non-comedogenic skincare products, especially since it’s easy to develop acne these days. Additionally, you can try to consume hydrating ingredients like white fungus, plums, lilies, bird’s nests, and of course, drink plenty of water.
This is an adaptation of an article, “青春不在，痘痘却还在! (Youth Might Be Over, but Acnes Still Exist!)”, which first appeared on Health123 website.
- National Health Service. 2017. Acne. [online] [Accessed 7 November 2021]
- New York Times. 2020. Maskne Is the New Acne, and Here’s What Is Causing It. [online] [Accessed 7 November 2021]
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