Acne and Wrinkles (and What You Can You Do About It)
Acne isn’t a skin condition that’s necessarily left behind in your adolescent years. Research suggests a significant number of adults either continue to experience acne or develop new-onset acne well after their teen years — and women were affected at higher rates than men in all age groups 20 years or older. Due to hormonal shifts, women tend to get acne around the chin area.
Dealing with acne on its own can be frustrating, but even more so as an adult, because you’re also battling the aging process (think: fine lines and wrinkles) at the same time. But knowledge is power. Understanding how both acne and wrinkles impact the skin can help you make better lifestyle choices while crafting a properly balanced skincare routine to fight pimples and the signs of aging. You’ve got this.
What Causes Adult Acne?
Acne is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the glands responsible for producing sebum (oil), resulting in blackheads and whiteheads (comedones), pimples, cysts, nodules, papules, and even scars. Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually.
There’s more than one form of acne, which can make treating the problem even more complicated. While acne vulgaris is the most common (responsible for 99 percent of all acne cases), there’s also acne cosmetica, acne rosacea, acne mechanica, and acne fulminans.
Adult acne is not entirely understood, but it’s believed to be a combination of oil gland production, bacterial infection, fluctuating hormones, and diet. A recent study published in JAMA Dermatology indicates that consuming certain foods has a higher likelihood of causing adult acne. Milk, sugary beverages and foods, milk chocolate, processed foods, and fast (and fattening) foods were more likely to contribute to adult acne than lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and dark chocolate — thank goodness for that!
Depending on the severity of adult acne, scarring can ensue. Scars typically occur when breakouts are so deep that they damage the skin and the tissue below. The body produces collagen — a vital substance responsible for the skin’s elasticity — during the healing process.
The type of scarring depends on how much collagen is produced. Depressed acne scars (known as ice pick scarring) occur when the body doesn’t make enough collagen. They look like deep depressions that form during the healing process. Raised acne scars, on the other hand, develop when the body produces an abundance of collagen. This scar is more prevalent in people of color, such as African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics.
Factors that increase the risk of scars include:
- Picking, squeezing, or popping pimples
- Severe, deep inflammatory acne
- Not properly taking care of their skin
- Heavy makeup
- The use of rough washcloths, mechanical cleaning devices, and exfoliating mitts
Treating Acne and Wrinkles
Treating acne as an adult is all about targeting the presumed causes (diet, hormones, etc.) and implementing strategies to reduce oiliness, fight bacteria, and curb inflammation — but you can’t neglect those fine lines and wrinkles either. To treat these conditions simultaneously, you need skincare for acne and wrinkles and the desire to make a long-term commitment to skin health. It’s also a good idea to consult a dermatologist who can help you craft the best treatment plan for you.
- Choose a Gentle Cleanser: Many cleansers that target teenage acne are too harsh for adult skin. Just because your skin may not be lacking oil doesn’t mean it does not lack water. A harsh formula is only going to strip the skin of natural oils, which in turn causes an overproduction of oil — think of it as a self-defense mechanism. Drying out the skin can aggravate acne, which can cause scarring and exacerbate the signs of aging. Opt for a gentle, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) cleanser that thoroughly removes dirt, oil, and makeup but without disrupting the skin’s acid mantle.
Wear Sunscreen: We said it before, and we’ll say it again. Sunscreen is the key to keeping wrinkles and acne scars at bay. Opt for an oil-free, non-comedogenic formula with an SPF of at least 30 and protect your skin from those harmful UVA/UVB rays.
Go Double Duty: The best products for acne and wrinkles are those that treat both conditions at the same time. For example, serums or creams formulated with retinoids. Not only do they exfoliate, unclog pores, and regulate cell turnover, but they also boost collagen production. You can start with an over-the-counter formula (listed as retinol on the ingredient list) or advance to a prescription version such as Retin-A. While there are no doubts that retinoids are a superstar ingredient, they are strong and can irritate the skin. Start with a pea-sized amount and don’t use it every day in the beginning. Note that the skin may purge (breakout even more) as it gets used to the product, but this is only a temporary reaction.
Alpha, beta, salicylic, glycolic, and hydroxy acids can improve breakouts, fine lines, and brown spots in one swoop. Look for these ingredients in a serum, mask, or home peel. As with retinoids, these acids can cause some irritation, so start slowly and consider a patch test first if you’re ultra-sensitive.
- Consider Laser Resurfacing: Laser resurfacing is a safe procedure that reduces both wrinkles and acne scars (win-win!). Here’s how it works: short, concentrated, pulsating beams of light target skin irregularities in each layer. The laser creates microscopic perforations in the skin, stimulating it to go into a healing mode. At this time, the skin produces new collagen, which fills in fine lines and scars and stimulates fibroblasts, resulting in a tighter and more refreshed appearance. There are multiple types of laser resurfacing procedures, so speak to a dermatologist about which one would be best for you.