REAL LIFE STORYS ON ADULT ACNE
As seen in Good Health Magazine
Acne is a teenage problem, right? It’s frustrating, bothersome and plain unfair but adult acne could even mean you have spotty skin and grey hair at the same time.
Acne is caused by an overproduction and poor release of oil (sebum) in the sebaceous glands just under the skin, resulting in clogged, inflamed pores. Because hormones are a common trigger of oil production, acne often appears during times of hormonal upheaval, which include pregnancy and menopause.
“About ten percent of women over the age of 30 will have acne and roughly half of them say their skin was relatively clear in their 20s and worsened as they got older,” says Fremantle dermatologist Associate Professor Kurt Gebauer from All About Acne. “We’re seeing a growing number of older women seeking treatment and although it’s unsure whether acne is on the rise or it’s just that women are less likely to put up with it, I suspect that more women are developing acne later in life.”
Robyn Smith, 35
The first signs of acne showed up when I was pregnant but cleared up after the birth of my son. Four years later we moved interstate and the pimples came back with a vengeance. I went from having lovely, clear skin in my teens to angry, cystic pustules all along my jawline and down my neck in my thirties.
It was painful enough that it even hurt to lie down on my pillow and embarrassing enough to cause anxiety whenever I had to leave the house. I started a fitness group and the first thing I did before each class was apologise to everyone for the state of my skin.
It was a time when I should have been meeting new people and enjoying life in my new home, but instead I was seriously depressed and seeing a psychologist.
I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2010 and although the acne didn’t appear until 2015 my doctors say it’s hormone-related. I have always looked after my skin and tried all the usual strategies and available treatments to fix my acne. I changed my diet, took antibiotics and spent loads of money on medicated creams and pills.
I found the treatment that eventually worked for me online and since the first treatment was free I decided to give it a go. It’s called Dr McCaffery’s SGA Acne Treatment (sebaceous gland ablation (SGA) delete this) and involves zapping active spots to permanently destroy the overactive gland beneath so the pimple won’t come back. So far the results have been amazing.
I no longer feel depressed or ashamed to leave the house and on most days I don’t wear makeup at all. SGA doesn’t work overnight but within a week the massive pimples were gone and three months into the treatment I felt like a new person.
Why it worked
Dr McCaffery’s SGA was developed by Sydney cosmetic physician Dr Philippa McCaffery and involves using a fine probe and heat to painlessly and permanently destroy pimples at their source.
Most of the skin’s sebaceous (oil) glands behave perfectly normally, making the oil that lubricates the surface of the skin, says Dr McCaffery. “But people affected by acne & breakouts have rogue sebaceous glands that produce too much oil and too many skin cells, creating oil & skin plugs which block skin pores and start the acne cycle,” she explains. “By targeting and destroying those malfunctioning sebaceous glands, we remove the cause of acne and breakouts, leading to permanently clear skin.”
Michele Harris, 44
“I did have pimples as a teenager but they were nothing like the facial devastation that appeared in my early 30s. I never imagined you could develop acne in adulthood, so it was a shock when it happened to me.
It started with a large pimple on my face and soon spread all over both cheeks. I felt really ripped off and embarrassed to have pimples at that age. I was so depressed that I didn’t want to go out unless I covered my face in makeup, which of course clogged my pores and only made the problem worse.
I tried all the usual remedies including expensive creams and lotions to clear up my skin but the effects never lasted and the pimples always came back. My husband and I were living in the UK at the time and renovating our first home. The doctor said my acne was caused by a combination of hormone imbalance and stress, so he changed my contraceptive pill to Dianette, which was specifically designed to regulate hormones and treat acne. It did clear up my spots but it also had some nasty side effects including crippling migraines. I switched to a low-dose pill and my acne came back, although nowhere near as bad as it was before.
I managed the problem by only using natural, non-greasy cosmetics and sun lotion. I replaced liquid foundation with compressed mineral powder. The stress factor went away when I upped my exercise regime and we took a year off work to travel, eventually settling in Australia. I still get the occasional zit but I find that careful exposure to a little bit of sunshine on my face also helps.”
Why it worked
Rebalanced hormones, stress relief and regular exercise worked in Michele’s favour as did adopting a minimalist approach to skin care and makeup. The pimple creams Michele tried first likely contained vitamin A or salicylic acid (aspirin) but they don’t work for everybody. Benzoyl peroxide is also useful but can cause problems, says Professor Gebauer. “It’s the same stuff used to bleach flour and has an antiseptic effect,” he explains. “Some people are allergic to benzoyl peroxide and it can also cause irritation if you have asthma or hayfever. Because it’s a bleaching agent it can also cause discolouration of skin, sheets and pillowcases, especially if you apply it just before bedtime.”