Turns Out, Diet May Not Have Anything To Do With Your Breakouts

And 4 other things you didn’t know about adult acne.

adult acne
Image: iStock

You’re well past adolescence (like, well past) and do what you believe are all the right things when it comes to preventing annoying breakouts. You remove your makeup every night before bed, drink lots of water, avoid processed, packaged foods and try to manage your stress levels as much as you can (ha!).
But somehow, somehow you still seem to cop a pimple the size of Mt. Everest on your chin, which–for some reason–thinks its welcome to stay for days and even weeks on end. So, what gives?
We met dermatologist Dr. Eleni Yiasemides not too long ago at a Neutrogena panel where she said a few things that really got us thinking. Here, she shares five *fun* facts that you may not have known about adult acne:

#1 Hormonal breakouts and “other” breakouts are legit the same thing

Yep, according to Dr. Eleni Yiasemides, blaming it on your “hormones” will only get you so far. Just like any other breakout, cleansing (or lack thereof) can have a huge impact—especially around ‘that time of the month’.
“In most women with acne, the actual hormones are normal when they are tested,” says Dr. Yiasemides. “People often refer to acne along the jawline or lower face as “hormonal”, but this is actually incorrect.”
“Studies have shown that the location of the acne on the face or body is not actually a sign of hormonal problems,” Dr. Yiasemides goes on to explain. “Studies also show that what people consider “hormonal” acne is best treated as per all types of acne—i.e. exactly the same way!” Which brings us to our next point…

skin breakouts acne
Image: iStock

#2 Topical treatments do help with hormonal/cystic breakouts

“Topical treatments and good skincare are an essential part of treating acne and preventing breakouts,” Dr. Yiasemides explains. “Treatments need to target the four key elements of acne pathogenesis, namely: (1) Blockage of the pore (2) Increased oil (sebum) production (3) Increased growth of specific bacteria and (4) Inflammation. With correct treatment, the skin will remain stable with the normal fluxes of hormones that occurs during the menstruation cycle.” That is, even if your hormones are wreaking havoc, a good skincare routine will help keep breakouts at bay.

#3 Diet may not have anything to do with your breakouts

Hold uppp, isn’t dairy ‘the devil’ when it comes to clear skin? Well, according to Dr. Yiasemides, not necessarily. The link between diet and acne has remained quite a controversial topic as so many different schools of thought continue to fight for the prize. Does it cause acne? Doesn’t it? What role does food play? If it doesn’t cause it, can it help it? What happened to ‘eating for beauty from the inside out’?
“There is a lot of research on adult acne (acne after the age of 26 years). We know that it is very common and can affect up to 40% of women. We also know that it is more common in professional women who have demanding jobs and lifestyles, so we think that stress plays a large role.”

healthy salad avocado salmon carbs
Image via iStock

“However, this is all we know,” stresses says Dr. Yiasemides. There are lots of studies that have looked at diet and acne, and to date, there are no studies that show that these cause adult acne. They have looked at specific ingredients such as dairy milk as well as general categories such as high fat diets, high protein diets, low sugar diets etc., So far the studies are inconclusive—but the majority have shown no strong link between the diet and acne. Having said this, there are studies that show that a diet high in sugar (high GI) will exacerbate acne (not cause it—but just make it worse).”
“As a dermatologist, I know that most women have tried changing their diet and this never leads to cure of their acne—it just leads to more frustration and anxiety!” she adds.

#4 Contrary to popular belief, moisturiser is important for acne-prone skin

For many, this may sound counterintuitive, however “keeping the skin hydrated is an essential component of good skin health and allowing the skin to function optimally,” says Dr. Yiasemides.
“We find that if we keep stripping the skin of its moisture, the body will try and counteract this by producing more oil and this leads to a frustrating cycle of oily skin that is irritated but still breaking out despite treatment.”
“Most acne treatments cause dryness as a side effect,” says Dr. Yiasemides. “Dryness affects the barrier function of the skin making it more prone to irritation and sensitivity. This leads to skin that appears red, inflamed, irritated, itchy and uncomfortable. Hence, application of a moisturiser will counteract these effects of dryness.”

face mapping
Image: iStock

#5 Skin replenishes itself over a 60 day cycle

As it does take at least 60 days for skin to restore, Dr. Yiasemides stresses that any treatments you try can often take time for improvements to start showing on the skin. There are however, things you can do on a regular basis to help things along—like using a gentle cleanser that cleanses the skin without stripping or damaging the barrier, she advises.
“Respecting the barrier and function of the skin is really important in any skincare plan. I instruct my patients to moisturise their skin with a hydrating but oil-free formulation [check out one by Neutrogena here] as this helps to improve their skin by allowing their acne treatment to work optimally whilst keeping the skin looking and feeling healthy.”
In addition to this,Dr. Yiasemides recommends using key ingredients that have been shown to improve acne-prone skin such as “topical retinoids (vitamin A derived products); hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid; benzoyl peroxide; azelaic acid; and nicotinamide (vitamin B3)–which are all available over the counter.”
And when all of the above is not enough to control your breakouts? Be sure to seek advice from a specialist dermatologist for a prescription treatment tailored to you, because if there is one thing we do know, it’s that no two skin types are alike.

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