For many people today, acne isn't something limited to the teenage years - it's an everyday problem.
Few people understand this better than Dan Kern, owner of the acne-support Web site Acne.org. Twelve years ago, after a number of failed treatments, Kern founded
Acne.org to share a treatment that worked for him. Now, the Web site has nearly 100,000 visitors from all over the world, who support one another, compare treatment options, discuss questions to ask doctors and come together against a common disease. While education and support of adult acne isn't the site's only function, it's certainly a topic that comes up often.
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
Dan Kern is the owner of the acne-support Web site Acne.org.
Kern's found himself the unofficial leader of a support group that shows definite trends. According to him, "People seem to be having more and more acne into adulthood. Women seem to be getting acne often in their late 20s and early 30s; no one's sure why."
The underlying causes of adult acne are essentially the same as in teenagers. According to Dr. Robert Brodell of Warren, "Both adult acne and teenage acne are caused by blocked pores, infection behind the blocked pores, and hormones that modulate the problem. Anything that alters hormones can aggravate acne - stress, hormonal medications, menstrual cycle. The hormone changes of puberty explain the flaring at this time. Teenage acne tends to last a few years and goes away as hormones change. Adult acne can last decades."
Dr. Anthony Mehle, a dermatologist based in Youngstown concurred. "It may appear in women at any age up until menopause," Mehle said. "It commonly comes and goes rather than being constant over many years. However, most women with adult acne are otherwise normal and healthy. It affects women of all skin types and colors."
For women who are not looking to begin a family now, birth control pills may help regulate the hormones involved with adult female acne, and there are a broad range of potential treatments that they can pursue with the help of their dermatologists. "Many oral contraceptives can help with acne and take about three months to really kick in after starting them and take a similar amount of time to wear off after stopping," Mehle said.
For women who are looking to start a family, however, the options are considerably more limited. According to Dr. Jenifer Lloyd, of the Lloyd Dermatology and Laser Center in Youngstown, "There are many treatments for acne - all of which will are fine until you are pregnant. Once pregnant, your options are very limited and generally include only a small selection of topical products." She does say, however, "Acne, in general, gets better when women are pregnant - hormones are stable - and of course, it can flare after delivery, or upon stopping breast feeding."
Mehle agreed, though he added, "Most of my patients who get pregnant notice that their acne improves during pregnancy, but a minority will worsen, and we dermatologists work along with a woman's obstetrician to safely control the disease in pregnancy."
Given the nature of both career and potential family-rearing, all four of those consulted agree that while stress has not been conclusively proven to cause flare-ups in adult acne, there is certainly plenty of evidence that it has an impact.
Brodell agreed that stress and anxiety do factor in, right down to exam times for college students, and Mehle added, "More problematic are the ongoing types of stress that are all too common in today's society - and the recommended approach to stress reduction varies with the patient."
While hot and humid climates, oil-based cosmetics, hair-care products and even sun exposure can affect acne, stress seems to be the thing that comes up most often. Kern suggested that exercise can lead to a reduction of stress, as well as building a good support network around yourself.
Lloyed agreed. "Eat right, exercise, breathe, meditate, do yoga," Lloyd said. "We all know what we need to do to reduce stress - it is just easier said than done. Start small. Five minutes to yourself a day and build from there."