If you’re reading this magazine, chances are you’re not an angsty teenager because, well, the paper is a foreign material to most in the millennium. Since you’re well past your acne-prone pubescence, then why did that crazy huge pimple pop up overnight on your nose (or chest or buttocks or back)?
“Everyone’s acne journey is unique,” says board-certified dermatologist Adarsh V. Mudgil, M.D. “Many patients have acne in their younger years that subsides, but for some, acne continues into their adult years, and others can even get acne for the first time in their 30s or 40s.” Aside from disregarding age limits, acne also ignores geographical boundaries, and it can materialize anywhere from your scalp to your bum and all places in between.
While it may be disturbingly satisfying to watch Dr. Pimple Popper extract a pint of pus from a mammoth back boil on YouTube, it’s a good idea to prevent that sitch in real life. Here’s how.
A pimple is essentially the result of inflammation in or around a hair follicle caused by an interplay between bacteria and a follicular “plug” — a combination of oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. Superficial pimples (acne vulgaris) such as whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and pustules are generally caused by clogged pores and are most commonly found on your face, neck, or back. Cystic acne is characterized by deeper pimples and inflammation beneath the skin and is generally hormonal in nature. “This kind of acne is commonly found along the jawline and chin but can occur anywhere on the face, chest, and back,” Mudgil says.
While it’s not technically acne, folliculitis looks similar and is caused by damage to a hair follicle, either through frequent rubbing of an area, wearing tight clothing, or shaving. Germs, bacteria and/ or yeast can easily enter the damaged follicle and cause an infection. The result: a smattering of angry red bumps typically found on the scalp, chest, butt, and pubic area.
There are three main reasons why you might experience acne as an adult.
No one wants to relive adolescence, but the same hormonal mechanisms that ignited your sex drive and initiated puberty are still at work into adulthood. “Adult acne is mostly due to hormonal fluctuations — estrogen goes down and progesterone goes up,” says Anna D. Guanche, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Calabasas, California. Menstruation, menopause and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are contributing hormonal conditions that can cause adult acne.
Stress also can trigger breakouts: Under stress, your body releases cortisol, which increases sebum production within the skin. “Excess oil is what bacteria loves and can enlarge the cysts and pustules of acne when the pores are clogged,” Mudgil says.
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