Understanding adult acne and oily skin

Expert advice from Anjali about what causes acne and how to tackle it.

Understanding adult acne and oily skin

Acne is probably one of the most common problems I deal with in my dermatology clinics.

Getting your skincare right if you suffer with acne is absolutely vital.   There is no doubt that breakouts can leave you looking and feeling miserable.  Whilst most people think of acne as a problem for teenage skin, over the past decade, doctors are increasingly seeing rising rates of acne in adults.  This can either be acne that persists past teenage years or acne that first develops in adulthood.
Acne is probably one of the most common problems I deal with in my dermatology clinics.    So, here I’ve put together a list of the questions I am most frequently asked.

What causes acne?

Acne develops due to a combination of factors including excess oil production (sebum), dead skin cells blocking pores, and the action of bacteria (P acnes).  It can manifest as blackheads or whiteheads (comedones).  If the inflammation is very deep in the skin, then painful red lumps or cysts may appear.  These can cause scarring of the skin.

What can make acne worse?

  • Hormones: androgens are hormones that are present in both men and women. Androgen levels rise after puberty causing an increase in size of the sebaceous glands resulting in excess oil production. The contraceptive pill, pregnancy, and a condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome can all affect sebum production.
  •  Diet: there is emerging scientific evidence that dairy products and foods rich in carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index (GI) may aggravate acne.
  • Stress: many skin conditions including acne can be aggravated by stress
  • Medications: certain medicines such as steroids can worsen acne.

How should I be looking after my skin to minimise blemishes?

It is important to cleanse your skin twice a day – morning and evening.  This can be in the form of a rinse off cleanser or micellar water.  Choose a cleanser specially formulated for blemishes or oily skin, like those in the Normaderm range (my favourite is the Purifying Cleansing Gel as it makes my skin feel squeaky clean afterwards).

After cleansing, use a light gel-based moisturiser that is “non-comedogenic” i.e. prevents the formation of blackheads. I really like the Normaderm Hydrating Care day moisturiser. Even oily skin needs moisturising as oils do not equate to hydration. Moisturising the skin will maintain the integrity of the barrier function of the skin and is vital for good skin health.

Don’t pick or squeeze your spots as your skin will take longer to clear and you may end up with acne scars.

Should I exfoliate?

It is a good idea to gently exfoliate once a week if you have oily skin.  This will immediately remove dead skin cells from the skin surface resulting in a brighter appearance.  Longer term, it will reduce the development of blackheads.  Be careful not to overdo this otherwise you will end up irritating the skin and making things worse not better. Try Normaderm 3 in 1, as it contains gentle exfoliation beads, and you can even use it as a mask. 

Will wearing make up make my acne worse?

It is important to choose the right products for oily, blemish prone skin.  If you wear make-up, then opt for an oil-free foundation or BB cream.  The Vichy Dermablend foundation range provides fantastic coverage for spots; if you prefer a lighter coverage look then Normaderm BB cream is a suitable alternative. 

I’m going on holiday and sunscreen makes my skin break out – what shall I do?

It is vitally important to wear sunscreen to reduce the aging effects of the sun.  Many people with oily skin find that sunscreens can block their pores resulting in spots.  Choose a mattifying sunscreen designed specifically for oily or combination skin, like Vichy Ideal Soleil Mattifying Dry Touch

Skin care and products aside, do you have any other advice to reduce spots?

Having healthy skin is part of maintaining a healthy life style.  Follow a nutritional diet with plenty of whole grains, vegetables and pulses.  Learn to de-stress  and make sure you get enough sleep and exercise.

See a doctor if your acne is affecting your self-esteem, failing to clear with the treatments you have tried over the counter, or leaving scars or dark marks (hyperpigmentation) on your skin.

Written by our Vichy Dermatologist, Dr Anjali Mahto.

This article reflects the opinion of Dr Anjali Mahto and is intended as general advice only.  You should seek advice from a professional before altering your diet, changing your exercise regime or starting any new course of conduct.

Anjali MahtoConsultant Dermatologist