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Adult acne and professional-pimple fighters to the rescue

Augh! Past puberty with stubborn zits? Here are some treatment options to discuss with your dermatologist.

Blame it on our genes (thanks, mom and dad). Blame it on the hormones (darn you, androgen!). Curse the free-loading bacteria hanging out on our skin (bad, bad Propionibacterium acnes). Go ahead and get pissed off at the very productive oil glands that pump out sebum at a tickle of air, and the over-zealous inflammatory mediators that think they are doing us a favor. The fact is, there are many bad players working together to produce that volcanic zit.

Of course, the scientific and cosmetic industry are here to help! There are loads of over the counter acne fighting treatments. If routine skin care and over the counter medications fail, we can always seek help from professional pimple-fighters. Therapeutic options include items we can’t readily get over the counter, such as antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and isotretinoin (for those not-pregnant ladies out there). And then, there’s our well-meaning, but not very evidence-based family members who insist “eat this but not that” to reduce acne.

The interesting thing is, our well-meaning but not-very-evidenced-based nana may be on to something. There is an ongoing area of research working to determine if diet affects acne. Emerging evidence suggests that high glycemic index diets may be associated with acne. One small study, for example, found that those participants who followed a low glycemic load diet had improvement in acne severity, improved insulin sensitivity, as well as weight loss. It’s thought that food with a high glycemic index leads to high insulin spikes. Elevated insulin levels stimulate the secretion of androgens and cause an increase in the production of sebum, which is one of the bad players in the formation of acne. Research is ongoing. But even if our well-meaning family member’s advice is, in fact, evidence-based, given the many bad players involved in producing that giant zit, eating the right foods is no guarantee for clear skin. For really bad adult acne, it’ll take a multi-prong approach to combat those pesky zits, a task that your local, friendly dermatologist is ready and able to assist.


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