Up to 15 per cent of women in Australia have acne.
The causes of adult acne are not clear cut, but it has been linked to hormones, family history and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Stress is another big contributor. The thought behind this is that stress can trigger stress hormones that get broken down into androgens (or male hormones) that stimulate the oil gland.
Oestrogens are female hormones produced by the ovaries. Imbalances between hormones, including oestrogen and testosterone can contribute to acne.
Adult women who have excess body weight can be more prone to acne. Surplus fat can convert the female hormone oestrogen into hormones that behave like male hormones (androgens), promoting acne by increasing production of sebum (natural oil that prevents skin from drying out).
Adult acne is not the same as acne that affects teenagers - younger skin is oily and less sensitive, whereas adult skin is drier and more fragile.
Poor skin care can cause adult acne. For acne prone skin, try products labelled non-comodegenic or oil free and avoid vitamin E cream or products with sorbolene.
Over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or an acne wash containing Montaline C40 may be enough to treat mild cases of adult acne. If that doesn't work, a doctor can prescribe either a topical retinoid that keeps pores open and prevents inflammation, or a product that combines benzoyl peroxide with an antibiotic.
Studies have shown that women who work in competitive environments can overproduce male hormones. High levels of these male hormones can trigger acne outbreaks in adult females. Many women juggle jobs, friends, family, financial commitments and many other life stresses which make adrenal glands produce more cortisol hormones, which can set off acne.