Why Am I Still Getting Pimples?
Published: February 22, 2013
You no longer have to gaze over a school lunchroom, hoping to find a seat at a socially acceptable table. You don’t rush to get home at night before your junior license driving restrictions kick in. And you men no longer have to worry that your voice will skip an octave without warning.
But if adolescence is over, what is that horrid protuberance staring at you in the mirror from the middle of your forehead? Some speak of papules, pustules and nodules, but we will use the technical term: zit. That thing on your forehead now is the same thing that was there back in high school, or at least a close relative. Same as it ever was (cue “Once in a Lifetime”).
We get more than the occasional complaint here from baby boomers who want to know about this aging body part or that. So you would think people would be happy with any emblem of youth — even if it is sore and angry-looking and threatening to erupt at any second. But oddly, there are those who are not happy to see pimples again, and some have asked for an explanation.
Acne occurs when the follicles that connect the pores of the skin to oil glands become clogged with a mixture of hair, oils and skin cells, and bacteria in the plug causes swelling, experts say. A pimple grows as the plug breaks down.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a growing number of women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even beyond are seeking treatment for acne. Middle-age men are also susceptible to breakouts, but less so, experts say.
In some cases, people suffer from acne that began in their teenage years and never really went away. Others had problems when they were younger and then enjoyed decades of mostly clear skin. Still others never had much of the way of pimples until they were older.
Whichever the case, the explanation for adult acne is likely to be the same as it is for acne found in teenagers and, for that matter, newborns: hormonal changes. “We know that all acne is hormonally driven and hormonally sensitive,” said Dr. Bethanee J. Schlosser, an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern.
Among baby boomers, the approach of menopause may result in a drop in estrogen, a hormone that can help keep pimples from forming, and increased levels of androgens, the male hormone. Women who stop taking birth control pills may also see a drop in their estrogen levels.
Debate remains over what role diet plays in acne. Some experts say that foods once thought to cause pimples, like chocolate, are probably not a problem. Still, while sugar itself is no longer believed to contribute to acne, some doctors think that foods with a high glycemic index – meaning they quickly elevate glucose in the body — might. White bread and sweetened cereals are examples. And for all ages, stress has also been found to play a role.
One message to acne sufferers has not changed over the years. Your mother was right: don’t pop it! It can cause scarring.
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