Adult Acne

Adult acne sufferers know their condition isn't "kid stuff," according to Barbara Green, a registered pharmacist, as well as director of technical and consumer affairs for the NeoStrata Company, Inc., a Princeton, New Jersey-based medical dermatological company dedicated to the advancement of skin care.

Green cites a Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology study, which reveals that 54 percent of women and 40 percent of men suffer from some form of adult acne-whose prevalence does not decrease substantially until patients reach the age of 44. Approximately 10 percent of teenagers with acne will continue to experience breakouts throughout their 20s and 30s. Other patients have their first acne flare-up in their 20s or 30s, wondering why they have "zits" when they escaped the condition's wrath in high school.

According to Dr. Albert M. Kligman, a professor emeritus of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, dermatologists were traditionally taught that acne is a disorder of adolescence. They now find that approximately one-third of women who suffer from acne in their 20s will deal with it throughout their 30s, 40s and 50s. Some may even experience breakouts in their 70s and 80s.

Dr. Kligman has speculated, after treating many professional women-from doctors and dentists to attorneys and business executives-that acne is on the rise because today's women are under more stress than their mothers and grandmothers. Studies seem to support his reasoning: At the University of Leeds in England, researchers found that the incidence of serious acne in women jumped from 10% in 1979 to 14% in 1996-a 40% increase. Over that same period, the incidence of mild acne also increased from 35% to 54%-a 54% rise. And Neutrogena, a leading U.S. manufacturer of over-the-counter acne treatment products, discovered in a 1998 survey that almost 60% of women between the ages of 25 and 39 had dealt with acne during the prior year.

Unanticipated Drama and Trauma

Even the most secure adult can turn into a neurotic mess when a major acne flare-up occurs. Self-esteem plummets, and our behavior changes in our sometimes ludicrous attempts to hide our faces from public view or wear scarves and turtlenecks to cover lesions under our chin or on our neck.

Adults need to have a support system when trying to conquer an acne problem. Seek comfort from a friend, a family member, a work colleague or a trusted physician to get you through the rough patches. It's normal to feel bad about yourself, but you need to put the situation in perspective. Instead of spending hours in the bathroom, obsessing over the spots on your face and buying vial after vial of cover-up and concealer to mask the blemishes (which often makes them more obvious), deal with acne from the inside-out-starting with your brain. You're dealing with a physical condition-a medical problem that is treatable and no cause for shame. All of us tend to be a bit narcissistic, believing that everyone is staring at us and we are the center of the universe. In reality, nobody is staring at you as much as you think they are. When you are so self-conscious, it's easy to believe that anyone who looks at you is focusing directly on your acne, as though it's a bull's-eye on your face. The truth? No one is that obsessed with your complexion-only you. It's true that some people may notice blemishes and stare for a couple of seconds, but the world will not end. Your acne, if treated properly, will end. The worse thing you can do is go into hiding, change your routine, shun social situations and allow yourself to become overwhelmed.

Realistic Expectations

You need to look at adult acne as a condition that resolves in stages. It is unrealistic to expect it to clear up overnight or even within a few weeks. You need to allow at least 30 days for any treatment to take effect and see improvement. If you're lucky enough to see improvement in a shorter period of time, then more power to you. Instead of focusing on the negative, reduce your stress and concentrate on the positive steps you have taken to improve your complexion. Practice meditation, eliminate negative self-talk, and praise yourself for being proactive. Recognize that you're making a commitment to improve your health, well-being and appearance, just as you would cut back on sugar and fatty foods if you noticed a weight gain.

If you find yourself extremely depressed, anxious or notice a change in your routine that lasts for more than a few weeks, seek counseling so that your adult acne does not interfere with your life. Do not put your life on hold because your skin has broken out. Signs of depression include crying spells, changes in eating behavior (either too much or too little), excessive sleepiness, insomnia, use of illicit drugs or drinking, changes in job or school performance, an inability to concentrate, changes in mood, withdrawal and an overall feeling of loss of control. Every adult will go through a depression at some point in his or her life, and acne can be severe enough to trigger one. You need to recognize the signs and take action so that you don't let your emotions spiral out of control. Help is available. You just need to seek it out.

Even the rich and famous deal with the same kind of psychological pressures. Many celebrities will avoid awards shows or social events because they have breakouts. It doesn't bode well for the rest of us-the "mere mortals"-when the most beautiful people in the world are ashamed of their complexions.

Adults who develop acne later in life, and who never went through it as teenagers, are particularly confused about what to do. It may not occur to them to seek help from a dermatologist, and they become frustrated when they shop the supermarket shelves or drugstore aisles and find products in hot pink packages designed for teenagers. Once again, it's important to recognize that acne can occur at any stage of life, in both men and women, for a variety of reasons. It is ultimately treatable. If anything, that is the message we want this book to convey.

"A problem this widespread (adult acne) demands a professional-strength daily facial treatment to revitalize, regenerate and restore skin texture, color, clarity and appearance," Green says.


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