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When you’re a teen who’s desperate to fit in, struggling with acne can feel like the end of the world. But you might assume that you’ll grow out of it. That’s unfortunately not always the case. Around 85% of people have acne at some point in their lives and those in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s can continue to be affected by it. Acne can be notoriously difficult to treat due to the fact that there are several different kinds — and there’s no one treatment method that works for everyone. Many people need a combination of treatments over several years to get their acne under control. It’s tough to know what’s at the root of your acne, too; you might have acne caused by both diet and hormonal fluctuations, which is why seeking out help from a dermatologist is usually advised to get a handle on things. But here are a few points that might help you get on the path to clearer skin.
Your hormones could be to blame
Hormonal acne is often characterized by pimples that are red, inflamed, long-lasting, and downright painful. Excess androgens (a type of hormone that emerges during puberty) cause your skin’s oil glands to enlarge and produce more sebum, thus increasing your breakouts. If you use birth control, are on your period, or are pregnant, you may be more prone to experiencing this type of acne — but even traveling internationally or missing out on sleep can cause it, too. While you should refrain from picking at all kinds of pimples, it’s especially important with hormonal acne; it tends to be deeper in the skin, so prodding at it will just make it worse and can possibly lead to infections. Vitamin A derivatives (such as retinol and Accutane), oral antibiotics, and chemical exfoliators are typically the go-tos for treating this type of acne. But if this type of acne is an ongoing issue for you, you’ll want to speak to your dermatologist.
It could also be products you use and wear
We don’t have a lot of control over our hormonal fluctuations, but we can control the things we expose our sensitive skin to. Experts note that we all have the same acne triggers, but we don’t all have the same reactions to those triggers. In other words, something that doesn’t make your friend’s face break out (like eating a lot of dairy) could wreak havoc on yours. That’s why it’s important to look at the likely culprits and assess what might be giving you trouble. For example: when’s the last time you actually cleaned your phone screen? Or changed your pillowcase? If you’ve recently switched to a new conditioner, hair styling product, or moisturizer, those topical products could be to blame. Even laundry detergent or your favorite hat might be making a mess out of your skin. Take a careful inventory of the products you use, items you wear, and pieces you come into contact with on a regular basis and see whether your breakouts could be the common denominator.
You might just be stressed out or be genetically predisposed
Unfortunately, your acne could have a couple of causes that are rather inescapable: stress and/or genetics. A lot of us are simply genetically more likely to have our sebaceous glands become more inflamed. If you have a parent who struggled with acne, it’s a bit more likely that you will, too (thanks, Mom). Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t be minimized with preventative measures and subsequent treatments. The same can be said for chronic stress, which has been known to make acne and other skin conditions worse. Although it may seem impossible to really reduce your stress, there are a few things you can do. Switching up your home or work environment can help you relax — for example, 78% of people say having art in the workplace can reduce stress — and prioritizing physical self-care can stop breakouts in their tracks. While you might feel silly about spending money on facials, peels, or other treatments on a regular basis, many have found them to play a pivotal role in their skin’s health, making it worth the investment. And of course, if you’re in a job or personal situation that brings about a lot of stress, do whatever you can to reduce its effects.
There could be a vaccine for acne on the horizon
There could be good news in just a few years’ time, particularly for those who haven’t been able to successfully treat their acne with traditional methods. Researchers from the University of California have been developing an acne vaccine that’s meant to stop bacteria from producing acne without actually killing said bacteria. It’s still currently in the testing stage and, given how complicated this skin condition can be, there’s no guarantee it’ll help everyone. But for those who don’t want to deal with the health concerns of long-term antibiotics or Accutane, it could be a welcome addition to possible prevention and treatment options for many acne sufferers.
If you’re struggling with acne and it’s impacting your quality of life, don’t despair. Even the most serious cases of acne can be improved, if not completely cleared up. Make your own acne treatment regimen to try and get rid of it once and for all! Be sure to talk with your dermatologist to explore your possible treatment options.