It was quite exciting getting your first spot, wasn’t it? The official badge of ‘I’m a teenager’. Almost as exciting as picking up your first pack of tampons. Of course, we soon learnt that they certainly aren’t as fun and grownup as they sounded when we were 9.
And if you finally ditched the ordeal of the endless flurry of zits as you left the teenage years, you will understand just how much more exciting it was to feel clear. Your mind and career path might not match your pimple free complexion, but hey, who doesn’t want a dewy finish?
But if the clocks turned back, and the acne has returned (or maybe it never even left), but you certainly don’t feel any younger, you can feel a bit stumped. Frustrated, confused, and most of all, annoyed. So, a bit like a teenager?
Don’t feel alone if you aren’t a walking Proactive after picture – adult acne is far more common than you realise. In fact, it’s far more common than appears to the naked eye thanks to the wonders of full coverage concealer and a sneaky swipe of a colour corrector.
And if you feel confused as to what causes spots, don’t feel alone either; scientists still struggle to understand adult acne, and the difference between adult and teenage sufferers. But they have concluded that the main causes are skin oil, bacteria on the skin, skin cells clogging up your pores, and inflammation. And hormones and stress levels also come into play here, particularly if you aren’t as young as you feel.
But there is some good news – scientists might feel lost when it comes to the causes, but they certainly know their way when it comes to the solutions.
Here’s all the reasons you are breaking out.
You’re using the wrong products
When it comes to finding the right skincare routine, there will no doubt be a struggle. It’s a few months of hits and misses, with a few extra-oily days thrown in for good measure. But the most common cause of adult acne is over-indulging in heavy creams.
There’s a lot to be said for a splurge on our favourite online beauty sites, but if you’re adding anti-aging products to your basket, think again; these products are for mature skin that needs nourishing, and often are much more rich than younger skin requires. Older skin doesn’t produce as much oil as its younger self, so cramming it full of oil is key to what causes spots.
On the topic of over-doing it, dermatologists are firm believers in clearing out that washbag every now and then. If you spend your evenings praying that an inch-thick layer of acne treatment will clear up your breakouts overnight, your wishes will be met with inflamed skin. In fact, most spot treatments can cause irritation, so keep your treatments for the areas that need it. If your forehead was oily, would you smother it in moisturiser?
Also, when it comes to picking the right places for treatment, make sure you find the right treatment for you. There’s far too many types of acne, and the only way you can learn how to combat the spots, is by working out what causes spots (or yours, anyway). Your skin is giving you signs, and its time you responded.
The question might not be what causes spots, but what is causing your stress?
It’s not exactly breaking news: a stressful day means stressful skin.
When we get anxious, our hormones decide to join in on the fun they are missing out on, and fluctuate. And when our hormones fluctuate, oil production increases. This is what causes spots.
And it’s for this reason that dermatologists always make sure they are promoting a mindful lifestyle for their clients. But a difficult day in the office doesn’t quite stop there. When we get stressed about our skin, we are tempted to pick at our zits. Popping them, scratching them, the occasional sacrificial ceremony to get rid of them; we’ve all been there.
But when you pick at your skin, you can disrupt that all important skin barrier, inflame the skin and scar it. And that will leave a much greater mark than any pimple. Adult women in particular are prone to underground pimples, and they will not go away if you pick at them.
You aren’t eating healthily
Let’s be honest: we all know we should be trying harder for that 5-a-day, or swapping out that vanilla latte for a banana, or not ordering that pizza because there was only a tin of baked beans in the cupboard.
Foods with a high glycaemic index can aggravate acne, and the high sugar levels promote the inflammation which causes breakouts.
And the causes don’t stop with those few too many biscuits you had on your lunch break; spicy foods are also a culprit. Tomatoes and peppers can contain lycopene, and this can throw off some people’s pH levels and trigger breakouts. Or, if you have an aversion to certain food groups, like dairy or gluten, these too can irritate the skin, and leave a much more visible problem.
If you’re stumped for a solution, look up ‘face mapping’. This Chinese practice links what causes spots on the different parts of your face to the parts of the body or foods you might be eating.
Speaking of a poor diet, smoking is considered a major cause for breaking out.
Not only are you taking in toxins, when you light up you decrease the access of oxygen to your face. Plus, it can breakdown the collagen and elastin in your skin, making wrinkles appear more prominent, as well as drying it out. And when your skin dries out? It responds by producing more oil, so more breakouts appear.
Suffering from breakouts – whether your 13 or 33 – is not an easy struggle. And when you deal with adult acne, the causes may be further from your grasp than it seems.
But if you’re getting stressed, and having a smoke, you might be what causes the spots you suffer from. Our skin is a reflection of ourselves, of our health. If you are neglecting it (or neglecting how you treat your skin), your skin will be the first to tell you.
And you can’t use concealer to cover up what it’s trying to say.