Acne is a big part of being a teenager. In fact, it’s estimated that 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 get at least minor acne. And sometimes it feels that the only thing that will get you past the breakouts in high school is knowing the acne WILL END when you get older.
But leaving your teen years doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done with breakouts. “Acne does not discriminate against age,” says Paul M. Friedman, M.D., a dermatologist and the director of the Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center in Houston and New York.
Though many people do stop getting zits — or at least find their breakouts are less severe — flare-ups can pop up well into our 20s and beyond. “Surprisingly, one in five adults between the ages of 25 and 44 experience acne,” Dr. Friedman points out. “In fact, some find their acne is worse in adulthood than it is during puberty.”
So what’s behind your post-high-school breakouts?
Hormones: Though puberty may be behind us, our hormone levels continue to fluctuate, leading to excess oil secretion, Dr. Friedman says.
Clogged pores: Sometimes skin cells don’t slough off the ways they should and instead end up blocking the hair follicle, causing a whitehead or blackhead.
Stress: Freaking out about your skin is actually bad for your skin! “Research has found our bodies respond to stress by producing an increased amount of androgens [male hormones], which stimulates the hair follicles and oil glands in the skin, leading to acne,” says Dr. Friedman.
Certain beauty products: “It is important to check the labels of hair- and skin-care products to ensure they are non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic or oil-free as these are least likely to cause acne,” he advises.
Some medications: “Some medications may trigger acne or make it worse,” he notes. Steroids, androgens and lithium are known to be associated with an increased chance of breakouts.
Pregnancy: Again, changing hormone levels are to blame!
So you may not be able to ditch acne when you head to college. But there is good news. You’re far from the only one.