Having the skin of a 15-year-old might sound heavenly (Firm! Smooth! Glowing!)—unless it’s pimple-plagued. Tricky thing is, adult acne can act decidedly different from the high-school kind. For one, your shifting estrogen and progesterone levels may lead to more inflammatory pimples and cysts, rather than whiteheads blackheads. Dermatologist Bobby Buke, M.D., explains how grown-ups should act. And he would know: He’s the section chief of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine; chief science officer for skin-care brand First Aid Beauty, and has a private practice in New York (check him out at bobbymukamd.com). Here are his five go-to tips (plus three things to do when your acne is REALLY bad).
Oxy 10—as in 10 percent of acne-killing benzoyl peroxide (BP)—was as germane to high school as Nirvana. Now, since BP is drying and skin loses moisture as we age, that dose can be irritating. For the first two days of a breakout, use a wash with 5 percent BP. (Try Derma Topix Benzoyl Peroxide Wash 5 Percent, $14, dermstore.com.) On days three and four, dab on cortisone cream to suppress inflammation.
Keep Oils Intact
Defensins are antimicrobial peptides in your skin’s natural oils. “One of the worst things I see adults do is strip away those oils with soap, witch hazel, or toner that neutralizes antimicrobial peptides,” says Buka. Alcohol-free products are best.
Dial Down Stress
A high-pressure job, a messy divorce: Very adult stressors can weaken your immune system, making it easier for bacteria to build up, and also mess with the body’s release of cortisone, an anti-inflammatory hormone. Buka tells patients to reduce stressors or find new ways to ease tension.
Watch Your Diet
High glycemic index foods (processed sugar, corn syrup, pasta) have been linked to adult-onset acne. “One patient rid herself of acne just by dropping gluten, without a prescription from me!” says Buka. Also, 2 percent milk is better than skim in keeping hormones from causing breakouts.
Get the Right Rx
If OTC options aren’t working after a few months, see a doc. For adult women, Buka likes spironolactone, an anti-testosterone pill. It reduces oil production but usually doesn’t hormonally affect other parts of the body.
When your acne is as volatile as a diva—and needs just as much nurturing—these extras can help.
Comedone Extractor. If you do get a whitehead, buy a comedone extractor to pop it. Its even pressure expels—rather than pushes in—the goo.
Cortisone Injection. When you need to be blemish-free stat, head to your derm’s office. A cortisone injection can make the pimple disappear within 24 hours.
Anti-Pigmentation Product. Zit gone but skin still discolored? Red clay fades the uneven tone left behind. (Try First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Purifying Mask, $30, sephora.com)
Image courtesy of womenshealthmag.com