Mid-Life Skin Breakouts

Under the heading of: “stuff you didn’t expect,” adult acne is often an unwelcome surprise, to say the least. One day you’re looking in the bathroom mirror, wondering why that older human is staring back at you, only to grab your glasses because you’ve spotted a pimple.

How is this possible?

Well, according to the American Academy of Dermatology: Acne is the most common skin problem in the United States affecting about 50 million Americans, and not all of them are in their terrible teen years.

Why now? 

“Adult-onset acne” (the official term dermatologists use, so be prepared for that) can happen due to:

  • Hormone fluctuations: perimenopause (cue: estrogen levels plunging off a cliff)
  • Stress: rise in cortisol, imbalance ensues
  • Menstruation: progesterone surges
  • Pregnancy: androgen hormone levels rise (particularly 1st trimester)
  • Birth Control Pills: when switching brands, going off, or on, a new course
  • Genetic Predisposition: if your parents had acne, you’ll probably get it too
  • Irritation due to hair and skin care products (check labels – you might be more sensitive than you know. Switch to products which are oil-free (look for words like Non-comedogenic and Non-acnegenic too)

Acne: the backstory 

Here’s a refresher on what acne is:

Acne occurs due to clogged pores, excess production of oil (aka: “sebum”) in the glands, and bacteria. The body usually sheds dead skin cells without any problems. But sometimes the system breaks down.

It just happens.

The pores clog, bacteria gets in, the pore gets inflamed (red, swollen), and sometimes (worst case scenario) the inflammation goes deep and creates a cyst or nodule.

Does chocolate cause it? 

We couldn’t find any studies that say chocolate causes acne, but researchers do say that a low-glycemic diet may lead to fewer pimples. Hint: chocolate is not low-glycemic in any way.

High-glycemic foods are those that cause spikes in your blood sugar levels and either contain sugar, or create sugar in the body. All the “white stuff” (sugar, bread, rice) plus corn flakes, potato chips, pastries and milkshakes.

If you spike your blood sugar, your body can’t cope. It over-produces insulin, and inflammation can occur. Your body also makes more sebum (oil) and an excess leads to acne.

If you want to reduce the potential for acne, try cleaning up your diet to focus on low-glycemic good stuff like fresh (not canned) vegetables (especially those leafy greens like spinach and kale), fresh fruit (in moderation), beans, pulses (split peas, chickpeas and lentils) and steel-cut oats.

There has been some research which raises concerns about milk, due to the hormones produced by the cow during pregnancy which, of course, ends up in the milk you drink. Try switching to (unsweetened) nut dairy alternative beverage whiteners and see if your acne improves.

Find a dermatologist 

Unlike regular teen acne, adult acne is often a response to deeper causes (stress, hormonal shifts, medication) so it’s worth finding a dermatologist, as well as sharing your symptoms with your primary care provider.

To find a licensed dermatologist near you, click here.