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When you’re faced with adult acne, treatment spans the ineffectual to the downright aggressive. Here we talk all aspects of this most loathed skin condition, how it works its way into every facet of life and how best to calm things down.
“Skin doesn’t just play up, it’s communicating that something is wrong,” says Joanne Evans, revered skin expert and founder of the exclusive Holland Park treatment clinic, Skin Matters. “Adult acne is very common amongst my clients. They become thoroughly depleted from constantly running on adrenals and as we know, our body pulls from other resources, so often they’re also low in magnesium, zinc and B complexes too. We have a much better understanding of the gut-brain connection now but I believe we still have further to go with regards to the body’s hormonal shifts and how that presents in the skin.”
Adult acne is not necessarily linked to those who had teenage acne, either. Far more common is the link to a substantial stressor, bereavement or catastrophic event. A sudden bout of angry cystic acne might appear to come from nowhere but emotional and hormonal factors always show up in the skin.
Reasons for a sudden adult acne breakout could be:
Hormonal acne often presents as red hot boils in desperate need of calming, under skin bumps can appear where sebum is compacted as a result of the wrong skincare and then there's the most typical - pustules; that angry red spot with a detectable white head.
The location of acne on the face can also give hint to the issue behind it. “Hormonal acne will most commonly show up on the chin with additional flare ups along the jawline,” advises Joanne Evans. “Breakouts between the eyebrows are usually signalling trouble in the small intestine and acne across the cheeks tends to be connected to infection or allergy in the gut and liver. Right now, the majority of cases we see with this type of acne are in vegans, where the body isn’t getting sufficient reliable sources of protein and that’s showing up in the skin .”
Stress and anxiety are well documented to exacerbate pre-existing skin conditions.
Biologically speaking, the direct link between acne flare-ups and stress occurs when the stress pathway to the brain reads emotional distress and systematically activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – triggering the body’s stress response.
This then causes the release of endocrine hormones, predominantly cortisol, that have pro-inflammatory effects on both the immune system and the skin. “Adrenal shock also triggers a toxin release and the production of more sebum and oil into the follicles, bacteria forms and then comes the breakout,” explains Evans.
Stress might be a leading determinant of skin health but the workplace is its most consistently reliable source. Adult acne is prolific in high achievers and top-ranking business people due to the intense levels of occupational stress. “I have so many clients who are CEOs and business owners coming to me with extreme cases of adult acne through intense pressure at work. I always warn them that trauma purges through the skin,” supports Evans.
So interlinked is our skin and our mental health that a recent All-Party Parliamentary Report found 98% of skin disease patients feel their condition affects their emotional and psychological wellbeing and recommendations are to invest urgently in psychodermatology support for UK dermatology patients. Adult acne sufferers report feelings of their skin betraying them and it being vastly misrepresentative of the capabilities and aptitude of the individual wearing it. They also see adult acne as a barrier to their career progression for fear of visibility within the company.
According to a 2018 review, female patients account for two thirds of visits made to dermatologists for acne, and one third of all dermatology office visits for acne are by women who are older than 25 years. Research papers have explored the reasons for this and concluded it could be down to the complex interplay of female hormones.
However, it’s also likely that these stats are somewhat skewed by the fact that generally, women are more likely to seek professional help than their male counterparts.
Al MacCuish was one such man who decided not to go down the dermatologist route, but rather find an effective treatment for adult acne himself. “At 50, I’d been on really strong anti-inflammatory antibiotics for five years and I knew that was definitely not good for me or my health long term.”
It was then that he was recommended The LYMA Supplement. “Within a week, the acne had completely gone.” Converted, he stayed on LYMA for seven months before taking a break. “Within six weeks of coming off, the acne came back,” he explains. “So I am back in the fold, using LYMA twice a day, and have clear skin again.”
But it wasn’t just his skin that improved, “The first, immediate benefit you feel is incredible sleep. I had weeks of vivid dreams, and waking up feeling genuinely rested.” The sleep helped to make him feel more focused too, and he was amazed at how it culminated in such a marked improvement in his life and skin. “It has been genuinely transformative. I will tell anybody who's got issues with their skin and are having challenges managing it, LYMA works.”
A gold-standard health supplement, LYMA reduces anti-inflammation throughout the body which is often the underlying issue behind the acne in the first place. When you’re sleeping better, feeling calmer and inflammation is brought down, so are the consequent acne breakouts.
LYMA also contains some hugely beneficial skin-boosting ingredients. Cynatine® HNS is the world’s first fully solubilised keratin, meaning your body can absorb it much easier than any other form. Cynatine works to improve your skin, hair and nails: after 30 days of supplementation, a study showed that 60% of the participants reported an 80%+ improvement in the smoothness of their skin. Also formulated into LYMA is Lycored Lycopene™, a potent carotenoid that studies show can fight acne by diminishing excess oil, balancing the skin’s natural bacteria and reducing the appearance of pores.
The golden rule behind treating adult acne is not to damage or inflict further pain on the skin. Skin suffering from acne is already heavily inflamed and the barrier compromised, so solutions must be gentle, consistent and support regeneration.
LED Light therapy is ideal for treating adult acne at a cellular level. Red LED lights bring down inflammation and encourage repair, while the antibacterial properties of blue LED light help to clear up infection on a surface level.
The trend in skin right now seems to be lasers for everything and, in the most part, that’s true. Clinical lasers can be mighty effective for pigmentation, rosacea and all signs of ageing but acne demands a more tender approach. The scorching intensity of a medical grade laser beam is not the right approach, and the exception to this rule is the LYMA Laser. The first of its kind, the LYMA Laser is a completely cold laser that matches all the power of the dermatologist's equivalent, yet causes zero damage or distress to skin. The 500mw laser beam is surrounded by blue LED lights to treat surface impurities whilst the continuous laser light travels deep down into the skin’s lower levels to transfer power to newly emerging cells.
Again, when it comes to over the counter acne treatment, kindness is king. Exfoliation is still essential but throwing astringent acids and peels at the situation, only serves to further agitate the skin and accelerate oil production. Lactic acid is by far the best way to support cell turnover without the sting and hydration should be in the form of deep-sinking serums and lightweight, non comedogenic moisturisers. It’s a complete myth that acne can't tolerate oil - oils are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and the fatty acids in oils can feed skin the nutrients it needs to recover. Jojoba, rosehip and hemp seed oils are widely considered the best oils for acne prone skin.
Antibiotics are often prescribed for extensive cases of acne to kill off bacteria and regulate hormone fluctuations. Although there’s absolutely a place for them, these medications are often harsh on the body, strip vital nutrients from the skin and are not suitable for long term use.
The double hit of acne is that, even when you’ve made the necessary lifestyle changes and undergone treatment to be rid of it, you’re often still left with residual scarring. Chris’ adult acne and historical acne scarring impacted both his performance in job interviews and social interactions for years.
With confidence at an all-time low, he waded through adult acne treatment reviews online and embarked on a course of microneedling treatment whereby multiple needle incisions purposefully damage the skin to encourage renewal. This turned out to be a highly detrimental experience, which left his skin even more extensively scarred and inflamed than the original acne.
But a few months later, Chris discovered the LYMA Laser and was astounded at how a pain-free laser could be the most effective adult acne treatment he’d come across. “The results are already more than I could ever have dreamed of,” he says. “My scarring played such a huge part in my life and now it’s barely detectable.”
No one’s asking you to be grateful for adult acne - that’s a leap too far. But skin is an outward manifestation of everything the body is going through, so by accurately reading the skin, it’s possible to treat both the acne and the underlying health issue behind it. Resolving any form of adult acne should never be an all-out attack on skin, but rather an intentional process of interpretation, consideration and making positive lifestyle changes. Optimising your nutritional intake, addressing stress levels, and reducing inflammation in the body will not only improve your skin, but boost your emotional state and elongate your health span for an all-round win.