Adult acne is often hormonal, appearing on the chin, neck, jawline and lower cheeks. Because adult skin takes longer to heal, the dark or red marks after spots can last for weeks or even months after the initial spot has gone.
More often than not, hormonal acne is really the result of hormone changes and not a direct result of skincare (but bear with us because skincare is important!).
It is caused by the body producing excess androgens (a.k.a. male hormones, smaller amounts of which are also produced by women), which leads to increased oil production in hair follicles around the chin, lower cheeks and jawline.
So let’s break this down... We know that all pores and hair follicles secrete oil - this is our skin’s way of moisturising and protecting itself, however some pores produce more oil and sebum than others. For example, the scalp is particularly ‘oil-producing’ because this helps to keep our hair healthy.
In the same way, the hair follicles on the lower part of male faces - basically everywhere there is increased facial hair growth - secrete more oil in order to moisturise beard hair and growth. In a very basic sense, this happens due to the male hormones/ androgens signalling to the skin to produce oil.
When females have increased male hormone production, the body signals the oil-glands in the skin in the same way, essentially telling the oil glands to moisturise the lower face, but this unnecessary sebum simply blocks pores and causes inflammation (because we don’t require the extra sebum for our beards!).
This is a good tip if you want to determine what kind of acne you have. If your blemishes nearly always appear within the space where you might have a beard, this is likely hormonal acne.
So what can you do about it?
Firstly, make sure your skin is as absolutely healthy as possible.
For many people, dehydrated skin and adult acne go hand in hand. This is because we’ve been taught by the skincare industry that acne = dirty; that we should clean and wash our faces and that oil is always bad.
In fact, the skin is actually made up of lots of different layers of oils and sebum. To put it bluntly, it makes no sense that the skin would produce oil without good reason.
Having said this, some oils do have a tendency to clog pores (mineral oil, fractionated coconut oil), but the right kind of cold-pressed natural oils will not clog at all and will help your skin to be healthy.
More importantly, the skin’s own natural oils are in themselves anti-bacterial, they serve a function which is to protect the skin from outside aggressors - pollution, sun, bacteria, and even ageing. When we strip the skin of these important oils, we leave it more susceptible to clogging, to increased bad oil production, to breakouts and even to signs of ageing.
When the skin is stripped of its natural protective oil, it can also become much more sensitive and prone to clogging, and ironically can become more oily as it tries to moisturise itself.
This becomes problematic as the skin is either too dry with no oil or too greasy with too much - which can cause many problems. When skin is dehydrated this way, fine lines appear more pronounced, skin heals even slower, you have more frequent breakouts and often the skin has a tendency to look "cloggy" (around the bridge of your nose in particular).
The fact that ‘stripped’ parched skin is slower to heal is particularly problematic with adult acne, which is already slower to heal than typical teenage acne, as the skin loses its ability to heal faster the older we get.
Hormonal acne breakouts are tricky, but the healing process is even trickier! Post-blemish, you may have red marks, dark marks and scarring that lasts weeks or months after the spot has gone.
So, although the kind of deep-rooted, under the skin spots typical of adult acne are in a sense due to excess oil, this is really something that happens deep deep within the skin’s many layers, and is not due to putting oil on the outer layer of skin.
The best skincare for adult acne
Many products targeted at helping acne will actually just strip oil from the skin, creating dehydration.
This also creates a reliance on moisturises and mattifying products. It’s a vicious cycle of
stripping the oil away
experiencing more oil production
trying to mattify skin and control oil production with more washing and stripping products
constantly feeling like the skin is dry underneath
Whether or not you are experiencing adult acne, it's important to make sure the skin is always hydrated - not tight or dry. This is the absolute best thing you can do to balance your skin’s natural oil production.
Some general advice:
Foaming face washes should be avoided as these strip skin of natural moisture over time (cleansing balms or oils are much more gentle on the skin)
‘Active’ skincare (retinols, doctor prescribed creams, acids, exfoliants), should not be used unless the skin is in a healthy, hydrated state, or you’re asking for trouble! When used they should also be used very sparingly, i.e. once or twice a week. (With the right skincare, you may not have a need to look for these harsh active skincare products anyway).
Avoid products with high alcohol content - specifically high street toners and generally anything that says ‘acne fighting’
Pretty much anything that promises to mattify the skin - instead of trying to combat oil production with drying products, try hydrating the skin so that it does not need to produce as much oil
Look for anti-inflammatory skincare products - using nourishing and calming ingredients is the best approach
Get Started Kit for Adult Acne
Suneeta’s Get Started Kit for Adult Acne is an entire skincare routine targeted at both dehydration and hormonal acne.
Not just a kit to help control breakouts, it’s also a kit that’s really targeted at the slow healing of hormonal breakouts. It’s as much for scarring and pigmentation as it is for active acne.
The products in these kits have been specifically chosen by ex-sufferers of adult acne, myself included!
There are two kits available: Basic / Deluxe
Along with the get started kit, my other top product recommendation for any kind of adult acne would definitely be the Brightening Skin Drops.
Skincare aside, with hormonal acne, it's also very important to consider internal factors, as this is where the acne starts.
As mentioned above, hormonal spots can continue to appear even when the skin is otherwise healthy, because they occur due to hormonal changes in the body.
This is why with hormonal acne, a popular solution is to go on the birth control pill (or change pill) in order to control hormone production.
However, it's actually simple enough to just consider changing your diet, as this also massively affects hormones.
The best diet for hormonal acne
Eating sugary foods increases levels of insulin, which creates hormone spikes (specifically of the acne-causing male hormones) so avoiding sugary foods and refined carbs can help immensely with hormonal acne.
Similarly, antioxidant-rich foods can help too. Lots of leafy greens, colourful veg, nuts and seeds etc.
Taking spearmint tea and evening primrose oil are also shown to improve hormonal acne symptoms
There is lots of evidence to suggest generally that a high protein, low sugar diet is best to help with hormonal acne. For those who break out particularly in the week leading up to their time of the month, it might be an idea to try this diet just in that tricky week!
If anyone has any of their own tips for adult or hormonal acne, please feel free to share!
Team Suneeta xx