The first of the two big differences between acne in these age groups is location.Teenagers tend to have breakouts on the forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin, while adults tend to have breakouts around the mouth, chin, and jaw line.
The second major difference is the underlying condition of the skin. Adult skin is usually weaker and more damaged than teen skin. That means adults with acne need to simultaneously address both the symptoms of acne and the symptoms of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, and uneven skin texture. Products made for teens often irritate fragile adult skin and actually accelerate the appearance of aging.
For patients experiencing adult acne, I recommend a treatment that takes into account all three components of my inclusive health philosophy—internal, topical, and emotional self-care. Internal care means eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods and taking supplements to protect and promote cellular integrity, which improves all systems in the body, including the skin—its largest, most visible, and most connected system. Eating foods rich in vitamin A—such as apricots, shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and mangoes—increases cellular turnover and helps keep pores clear. Topically, it’s important to use products that treat both acne and aging concerns. In addition, there are steps you can take to lower your skin’s exposure to irritating bacteria: regularly changing out pillowcases and towels, replacing makeup sponges often, and gently washing skin with lukewarm water (scrubbing or using hot water will lead to additional irritation).
Reducing stress by maintaining a healthy connection with friends and family and structuring a positive social environment will help address your emotional self-care.
Focusing on the whole body helps target and eradicate one of the root causes of adult acne—cellular weakness. By optimizing your internal, external, and emotional environments, your population of cells will be younger and stronger, which will help to rapidly resolve adult acne.
Howard Murad, M.D., is an associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, the founder of Murad In , and the author of the upcoming book The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger (September 2010, Wiley).