Ever feel like you're 30 going on 13, thanks to your skin? Dealing with pimples as an adult is so not fair. Acne is a teenage problem after all, right?
Not necessarily: According to research in the Journal of Women's Health, 26% of women in their 30s battle breakouts. “It’s very common for a woman to come to my office for an anti-aging procedure, then tear up, admitting that she’s still struggling with acne,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
While bacteria (P. acnes) and inflammation are the two main culprits, acne is also influenced by hormones, Dr. Bowe explains. “When a woman’s androgen receptors are particularly sensitive, these hormones can trigger excess oil production and cause skin cells to become sticky, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.”
How can you tell if your acne is hormonal? Clues include breakouts primarily on your lower face (specifically cysts along the jawline and even down the neck) and acne flares before or during your period.
For years, the Rx for hormonal acne has been the birth control pill. Those that contain both estrogen and progesterone lower the amount of androgens your body produces, keeping blemishes at bay. But what if you're perfectly happy with your current type of birth control, or you just don’t want to pop the pill?
Follow this multi-modal treatment plan, courtesy of Dr. Bowe, for clearer skin within three months.
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day to keep pores clear of dirt, oil, and makeup. One to try: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($8; walgreens.com).
Immediately after cleansing, apply a topical acne treatment. Dr. Bowe suggests Aczone, a prescription anti-inflammatory and antibacterial gel. Unlike benzoyl peroxide, which can be drying, Aczone contains dapsone, a gentle yet effective ingredient that is ideal for adult female skin.
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Get good bacteria
Take a probiotic supplement or eat yogurt with live, active cultures once a day. Probiotics work by helping your gut ease the inflammation that can trigger a host of skin problems, including acne, says Dr. Bowe.
Ask about peels
Talk to your dermatologist about a series of chemical peels. Typically a gentle dose of glycolic or alpha hydroxy acids, these treatments slough off the sticky, dead skin cells that can clog pores.
Tweak your diet
Eliminate dairy milk—especially skim, which may have more pimple-producing hormones. A good-for-your-skin swap? Almond milk. Also limit your intake of high glycemic index foods like white bread, rice, and pasta.
Exercise boosts circulation, which can help dial down skin inflammation, Dr. Bowe says.
Practice methods of stress reduction, such a yoga, massage, and meditation.