When we were kids, we were often sold on the idea that acne is unique to our teens – a coming-of-age gift that must be handled before graduating into the adult world. But when we hit 20, most of us have the evidence to demystify that particular theory. Sprouts don’t care what phase of life you are in (or what major events you may have). Even well into your 40s, acne can appear, and it’s actually incredibly common.
Our 40’s are a challenge to the skin under normal circumstances. This decade is when many begin to experience the effects of menopause, including a decrease in estrogen that slows down acne. But the last few months in particular may have been especially tough. “Lately, we’ve had a lot of people in their 30s and 40s with full-blown acne, all on the masked areas of the face and jawline,” explains the celebrity facialist. Joanna vargas.
To help us navigate the ins and outs of acne in our 40s, we reached out to a group of estheticians and dermatologists: Dr. Parvaneh Rafaeloff, owner and medical director of Le Jolie Medi Spa in Los Angeles; Joanna Vargas, author of Glow from within and founder of her homonymous salons and skin care line; and Emily Hoyt, founder of the beauty and wellness brand Lather. Read on for your guide to navigating acne (and its dreaded scars) in your 40s.
First things first: What is acne?
Acne is an extremely common skin condition that occurs when our pores become blocked with hair, sebum (an oily substance), dead skin cells, or bacteria. This results in whiteheads, blackheads, or any number of small, sensitive bumps along the skin. There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to acne, but fortunately, it is very treatable.
What Causes Acne at 40?
There are a number of factors that cause acne, no matter how old you are, but there are three common suspects:
Teenagers may have a reputation for having raging hormones, but things can spiral out of control at any point in our adult lives, especially for those experiencing pregnancy or menopause, which women tend to start in their 40s. Add a lot of stress for acne prone results. If you think hormonal fluctuation is affecting your skin, consider having your levels tested to see if you are low on a particular hormone.
It’s natural to think of fat as a sign of poor hygiene (consider this a gentle reminder to wash your pillows regularly, seriously), but the real problem may be found in your skincare product line. Using a product that is too acidic for your skin can damage and dry it out, causing an overproduction of oil to compensate.
The truth is that the state of your skin is directly correlated with your digestive system, eating a healthy diet will always be beneficial, but especially with regard to the brightness factor of your face. “If we eat something we cannot digest or have trouble digesting, there are consequences!” Vargas says.
In addition to eating healthy, incorporating skin-boosting vitamins into your diet can make a difference. Dr. Rafaeloff highly recommends magnesium (suggests 600 mg a day) and zinc (through supplements or foods like chicken, oatmeal, or lentils). A topical vitamin C is a dermatologist favorite, but we’ll talk about that in a second.
Now on to the topical tricks of the trade.
The best products to treat acne in your 40s
At 40, we may have a hard time changing a routine we’ve been perfecting for years. So instead of offering a full regimen review, we surveyed our experts on everything from face washes and serums to acne pads for some worthwhile favorites.
First: The ingredients to look for
Salicylic acid: There is a reason this is an old but good thing when it comes to removing dead skin cells. “This really helps clear pores in adulthood,” said Dr. Rafaeloff says.
Tea tree oil: “I always recommend tea tree oil to help fight bacteria, ”Hoyt explains. “Also, aloe or oat extracts can help calm inflammation.”
Apple cider vinegar: For an easy and all-natural option, Dr. Rafaeloff recommends using the Useful homemade vinegar to help kill bacteria.
Retinol: The list of magical skincare powers of retinoids is long and naturally extends to acne. Smear it before bed to control acne and stimulate collagen production while you heal. Once you start, you will never go to bed without it.
Read on for product recommendations from our experts.
When Call the professionals
Whether you’re trying to alleviate acne or address its aftermath, there are several in-office treatments that can target just that. Each person’s skin is unique, so ideally consulting a dermatologist would be the best way to tailor your treatments. But for a little guide to what might work for you, our experts name a few for your acne condition.
To soothe acne
We mention LED lights soothing and healing powers before. Along with regular facials, treatments can help keep breakouts at bay. “If someone is struggling with a lot of acne, I take them for facials more often,” explains Vargas. “I suggest two to three weeks to keep the skin cleaner while using the bed each week to help improve the skin.”
Lasers and acne scar treatments
Retinol can work wonders for acne scars, but deeper marks often require professional treatments. “We would not directly treat active acne with microneedles, so it would be best for recovery,” said Dr. Rafaeloff explains. “A very popular laser is the Morpheus8: it is radio frequency mixed with microneedles, so it really helps to resurface the skin, kill bacteria and build new collagen. It also tightens and contours the face for that extra edge. “
Medical grade peels, including Perfect derma peel, it can also help lighten the skin and treat scars. Peels may require more treatment sessions than a laser, but they are a relatively painless alternative with no downtime. (However, Morpheus8 generally requires facial numbness.)
When to visit a dermatologist for acne
With so many great over-the-counter products and information available at your fingertips, it can be tempting to try and combat extreme breakouts from your dresser. A good rule of thumb is to accept that when your regular line of preventative products stops working, having a dermatologist in your arsenal will help you get back on track.